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Indian telcos Vodafone Idea and Airtel post $10.3 billion in combined quarterly losses

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It’s not a good day for two of the top three telecom operators in India. Vodafone Idea, India’s second-largest telecom operator by subscriber count, said its consolidated loss had widened to $7.14 billion in the quarter that ended in September in what is the largest-ever quarterly loss witnessed in the nation on Thursday.

The announcement followed a similar outcry from India’s third-largest telecom operator. Bharti Airtel posted a consolidated net loss of 230.4 billion Indian rupees ($3.23 billion) after the telco took charge of a one-time $4.3 billion potential outstanding payment to the government related to a court dispute surrounding 14-year-old adjusted gross revenue.

Vodafone Idea said its $7.14 billion loss also provides for 256.8 billion Indian rupees ($3.6 billion) in outstanding payments surrounding the aforementioned court case.

In the filing, the Indian unit of British giant Vodafone Group and billionaire Kumar Mangalam’s Idea Cellular said it will file a review petition to India’s apex court to challenge the federal government’s decision.

In recent weeks, executives of U.K.-headquartered Vodafone, which owns 45% of Vodafone Idea, have said that the group’s telecom business in India could collapse if the government does not offer it any relief. The network’s India unit is already saddled with $14 billion in debt.

Vodafone Idea posted a revenue of 108,440 million Indian rupees ($1.5 billion), down 3.8% since last year. The company’s net loss during the same period last year stood at $687 million. Bharti Airtel’s revenue in the quarter stood at $2.93 billion.

Last month, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel and several other operators, including some that are no longer operational, will have to pay to the government within 90 days a combined $13 billion in adjusted gross revenue as spectrum usage charges and license fees.

The Indian government and telecom operators are disputing how gross revenue should be calculated. The government has mandated that license and spectrum fee to be paid by operators as a share of their revenue. Telcos have argued that only core income accrued from use of spectrum should be considered for calculation of adjusted gross revenue.

Bharti Airtel has also requested the government for a waiver. Through a spokesperson, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO of Bharti Airtel’s India and South Asia business, said, “We continue to engage with the government and are evaluating various options available to us. We are hopeful that the government will take a considerate view in this matter given the fragile state of the industry.”

Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man who runs telecom network Reliance Jio — which has become the largest operator by subscriber count by starting a price war in the country three and a half years ago — has said that he does not share the view of his rival networks. His telecom network owes the least to the government — $1.8 million.

Reliance Communications, run by Mukesh’s brother Anil Ambani, and Aircel, run by tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan, also owe the government money. They have been bankrupt for years.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/14/vodafone-idea-airtel-q3-losses/

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Binance Announces Partnership With Paxful Enabling 167 Fiat Currencies

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Binance Announces Partnership With Paxful Enabling 167 Fiat Currencies

Major cryptocurrency exchange Binance announced a partnership with peer-to-peer (P2P) crypto trading platform Paxful with the aim to enable the P2P platform as a Binance fiat gateway.

According to a press release on Dec. 12, Binance users will now be able to use Paxful to buy Bitcoin (BTC) with 167 various fiat currencies.

Supported fiat currencies include the Russian ruble, Vietnamese dong, Indonesian rupiah, Nigerian naira, Colombian peso, British pound, Mexican peso, Canadian dollar, euro, Argentine peso. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said:

“This marks a significant partnership between a crypto exchange and peer-to-peer platform where a new pool of users will have access to alternative fiat payment methods available on Paxful, including local currency bank transfers and some of the world’s most popular digital wallets. […] As one of the sole exchanges offering this service with Paxful’s integration to our users, we are looking forward to seeing new possibilities arise by providing more fiat-to-crypto options to the mainstream.”

Per the release, the partnership aims to reach and aid an estimated 2 billion unbanked people worldwide. Given that developing nations host a significant portion of the unbanked, it is worth noting that an October report showed a 2,800% increase in trades on Paxful in South Africa compared to the previous year.

Binance adds a slew of support for fiat

Binance appears to be devoting a significant portion of its resources to building its fiat currency onramp infrastructure and partnerships. As Cointelegraph reported, the exchange also announced the launch of its fiat gateway for Latin America today.

Furthermore, in November Binance added support for buying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with the Turkish lira and partnered with stablecoin operator Paxos to implement its fiat gateway.

Published at Thu, 12 Dec 2019 15:27:00 +0000

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Bitcoin Price ‘Boring and Fragile’ as Trader Plans for Dip Below $7K

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Bitcoin Price ‘Boring and Fragile’ as Trader Plans for Dip Below $7K

Bitcoin (BTC) continued its broad downtrend towards $7,000 support on Dec. 12, failing to break out of a behavioral pattern that has left traders uninspired.

Cryptocurrency market daily overview

Cryptocurrency market daily overview. Source: Coin360

Bitcoin could face “significant drop”

Data from Coin360 showed BTC/USD trading down around 1.2% on the day, with only a brief spike to $7,265 punctuating the otherwise lackluster performance.

The sudden uptick met with selling pressure within minutes, markets tanking to local lows of $7,107 before recovering to current levels around $7,150. 

Bitcoin seven-day price chart

Bitcoin seven-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Bitcoin has nonetheless lost over 3% since last week, with traders’ hopes for a retest of resistance closer to $8,000 so far going unanswered. 

Now, regular Cointelegraph contributor Michaël van de Poppe said that if fresh energy did not appear, Bitcoin could be in line for a “significant” drop. 

“Boring & fragile markets here,” he summarized in his latest Twitter update on Thursday. 

Downside potential could see BTC/USD bottom out at previous lows around $6,500, he added, while a boost to the upside would place $7,500 levels back into the equation.

Fellow contributor filbfilb meanwhile was more risk-averse. Revealing his short-term risk plan to readers on Wednesday, he confirmed he was short BTC, eyeing a likely dip below $7,000. 

“Overall I am bullish pre halving its just a matter of trying to micromanage the mid term optimal entry,” he added.

As Cointelegraph reported, concerns over Bitcoin’s performance before May’s block reward halving have spread rapidly through analytical circles. 

Statistician Willy Woo previously said bearish price action made the run-up to Bitcoin’s third halving unlike any other, while Keith Wareing warned BTC/USD could dip as low as $2,500 in analysis for Cointelegraph over the weekend.

Altcoins continue to lose ground 

Altcoins meanwhile saw broadly negative progress in line with Bitcoin on Thursday. The top twenty cryptocurrencies by market cap generally saw losses of 1-2%.

Ether (ETH), the largest altcoin, performed worse, losing 3.6% to trade at $141. 

Ether seven-day price chart

Ether seven-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Cosmos (ATOM) conversely managed 4.6% gains in the same period, while Tezos (XTZ) traded up 1.3%.

The overall cryptocurrency market cap was $195 billion at press time, with Bitcoin’s share at 66.7%.

Keep track of top crypto markets in real time here

Published at Thu, 12 Dec 2019 09:36:00 +0000

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From Health Care to Mining, Central Asia Stays on the Blockchain Beat

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From Health Care to Mining, Central Asia Stays on the Blockchain Beat

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology continues to be a global phenomenon, with adoption and utilization cases emerging in almost every corner of the globe. Digital technology has become so popular that it is now a major talking point not only in the financial sector but also in politics and governance.

The seven “-stan” countries of Central and South Asia — Pakistan, Kazakhstan, AfghanistanKyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — haven’t shied away from the sweeping digital technology phenomenon. Whether it be revitalizing Afghanistan’s healthcare sector with blockchain adoption or introducing a waiver for crypto mining in Kazakhstan, digital technology utilization appears to be gaining a foothold in these countries.

Some stakeholders in these nations argue that more still needs to be done if the region is going to enjoy a similar level of crypto and blockchain commerce as seen in Eastern and Southeast Asia. The following is an overview of some of the notable crypto and blockchain developments in the seven countries.

Pakistan’s government exploring digitization policy

Pakistan’s central bank — the State Bank of Pakistan — banned cryptos in the country. As is the case in India, stakeholders within the local crypto community have sought to overturn the prohibition.

Related: Binance Buyout in India Takes Industry Fearful of Regulation to Hope

Waqir Zaka, a co-founder of TenUp, a blockchain-based venture capital startup, is among the vocal critics of the Pakistani crypto ban. Zaka appeared before the Sindh High Court earlier in the week to argue against the central bank’s ban.

According to local media outlet ProPakistani, the SHC instructed the country’s Federal Investigation Agency to aid the court in understanding cryptocurrencies and come to a reasonably fair judgment on the matter.

In a tweet posted by Zaka on Dec. 5, the high court adjourned the case to Jan. 28, 2020. The TenUp chief also used his appearance in court to report the alleged harassment of crypto miners in Pakistan.

Stepping away from blanket crypto bans, Pakistan’s government is looking to implement robust digitization policies. Back in April 2019, Cointelegraph reported that authorities in the country were set to pursue digitization of core government operations.

Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Strategic Reform and Implementation Unit — dubbed Digital Pakistan — on Dec. 5, with ex-Google Product chief Tania Ardus at the helm.

Additionally, the federal government enacted a set of rules in April 2019 to govern and license digital currency institutions. The move was part of efforts by the country to comply with Anti-Money Laundering guidelines prescribed by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force.

Pakistan is also reportedly eyeing the possibility of creating its own sovereign digital currency. As reported by Cointelegraph earlier in 2019, the State Bank of Pakistan has plans to issue its own national central bank digital currency by 2025.

Draft tax exemption policy for crypto miners in Kazakhstan

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, lawmakers in Kazakhstan are looking to exempt crypto miners from tax obligations. According to a draft law, the lawmakers want cryptocurrency mining to be recognized as a “purely technological process” for tax purposes.

Under this special designation, crypto miners will only be required to pay taxes when they convert their virtual currencies to fiat. The draft policy also seeks to establish crypto mining as a legal and regulated activity within the country.

The proposed tax bill is the latest example of the generally positive stance toward crypto and blockchain exhibited by the Kazakhstani government in recent times. On the matter, Cointelegraph spoke with Madi Saken, senior legislative coordinator at the Blockchain & Data Center Industry Development Association in Kazakhstan, to obtain first-hand details about the bill. In an email to Cointelegraph, Saken explained that the country is not considering levying a capital gain tax on mining activity, explaining:

“However, mining will still be deemed entrepreneurial activity in cases when mining farms offer services to use their computing hardware for digital mining. Mining farms would be taxed by analogy with typical data centers as they receive fiat income under commercial contract alike other data-center services.”

Concerning the legal status of crypto in the country, Saken revealed that the government has no official position regarding digital assets. However, he pointed to the Astana International Financial Center as having created a special regime for cryptos under its own independent legislative prerogative.

The association’s coordinator did reveal to Cointelegraph that the government was considering a draft framework for digital assets. Back in 2018, the country’s central bank called for a ban on crypto trading and mining.

For Saken, crypto and blockchain adoption in Kazakhstan is relatively low, but the NABDC says there are positive signs signaling greater utilization in the country. According to Saken:

“Business adoption of blockchain is relatively low at this stage. However, the biggest national telecom operator Kazakhtelecom JSC has just launched its corporate BAAS (Blockchain as a Service) platform for business, which allows companies and state bodies to create and place blockchain systems on its decentralized platform. The company expects that its product will ease blockchain adoption for business. Besides, there are several startups being developed in Astana Hub and AIFC.”

Saken also said that he believes cryptocurrency adoption is on the horizon, as he observes a positive attitude toward crypto from the national bank: 

“Having initially conservative and adverse position, now National Bank is more prone to be constructive consideration. The government and National Bank are more supportive with regard to mining industry development and cryptocurrency regulation, taking into account FATF recommendations and a need of proper financial monitoring and AML instruments.”

Transforming Afghanistan’s health sector via blockchain adoption

Afghanistan is seeing some real-world application of blockchain technology in areas such as healthcare and urban development. As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the country’s Ministry of Public Health signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2019 with blockchain startup, FantomOperations.

The memorandum aims to facilitate the deployment of blockchain-based solutions in the country’s health sector. The major focus of the project is to combat the spread of counterfeit medicines and the digitization of patient and hospital records. In a statement released at the time, the ministry declared:

“The Ministry of Public Health is committed for the institutionalization of electronic government in the health sector and the block-chain technology would help the ministry bring transparency, acceleration and effectiveness in the related affairs.”

Earlier in the year, the United Nations also announced that it would be utilizing blockchain-based solutions to drive Afghanistan’s urban development projects. The move is part of the UN’s “City for All” initiative, with the country expected to become predominantly urban by 2034.

Elsewhere in the region

In Kyrgyzstan, authorities seem to be on the offensive against crypto miners. In September 2019, 45 cryptocurrency mining centers were cut off from the national grid as energy officials accused the mining farms of abnormally high electricity consumption.

Despite the 2014 crypto ban, miners have established a significant presence in Kyrgyzstan, taking advantage of the country’s cheap electricity rates. However, government authorities are reportedly looking for ways to regulate the industry, claiming that crypto mining is yet to be defined under federal law.

While Kazakhstan is considering a reduction to the tax burden on crypto miners, Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Economy is set to amend the country’s tax code in preparation for the introduction of cryptocurrency mining taxes. 

The draft law is reportedly considering two approaches to the proposed crypto mining tax regime — levying taxes on income or expenses. Based on the popularity of crypto mining in the country, the tax law could see the government earn close to $4.2 million per year.

In Uzbekistan, the government increased electricity tariffs for crypto miners by 300%. At the time, energy officials said the move was to facilitate a more rational utilization of electrical energy by consumers in the country. Crypto trading remains legalized in the country, with participants enjoying tax breaks. However, foreign traders can only operate in the country if they create a local subsidiary in Uzbekistan.

On the whole, the government of Uzbekistan maintains a positive attitude toward digital technology, especially blockchain. Back in September 2018, the country created Digital Trust — a state blockchain fund dedicated to the utilization of technology in several government projects across sectors like education and healthcare.

Published at Thu, 12 Dec 2019 03:00:00 +0000

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