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U.S. firms concerned as tensions simmer in Hong Kong over looming legislation

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – A survey of U.S. businesses on Wednesday revealed deep fears for the future of their operations in Hong Kong if China imposes national security legislation that critics say could curb the financial centre’s freedoms and fuel ongoing protests.

FILE PHOTO: Anti-government demonstrators take part in a protest during a lunch time in Central, as a second reading of a controversial national anthem law takes place in Hong Kong, China May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Contributing to simmering anti-government tensions, Hong Kong lawmakers are set to resume a debate over a controversial bill that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem, following scuffles in the legislature in recent weeks.

An annual vigil to mark the June 4, 1989, anniversary of Chinese troops opening fire on pro-democracy students in and around Tiananmen Square has been cancelled for the first time ever due to the coronavirus but activists still plan to rally.

Following that, demonstrations are planned to mark the anniversary of the million-people march on June 9 last year against a since-withdrawn mainland China extradition bill, and the protests three days later that were met by police with tear gas and rubber bullets in scenes which radicalised moderates.

The two key events turned last year’s protests into a broader movement for greater democracy, plunging the Chinese-ruled city into its biggest crisis since its handover from former colonial master Britain in 1997.

Frustrated with the often-violent demonstrations, authorities in Beijing last month advanced plans to introduce national security laws in the city, sending shivers through the legal, diplomatic and business communities.

The survey conducted for the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) showed 30% of respondents were “moderately” concerned and 53.3% were “very concerned” about the laws, which aim to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong.

About 60% thought the legislation would harm their business operations, citing concerns about ambiguity in scope and enforcement, erosion of autonomy, talent drain, Hong Kong’s international status, social unrest and the independence of the justice system among others.

A third said they were considering moving capital, assets or business operations out of the semi-autonomous city, while 38% said they were personally considering moving out of Hong Kong.

The survey conducted on June 1-2 received responses from 180 or 15% of Amcham’s members.

Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly said the national security laws would not affect the city’s high degree of autonomy – part of the handover terms from former colonial power Britain to China in 1997 – including its common law, independent legal system.

Some companies, including HSBC Holdings (HSBA.L), have come under pressure to support the national security law, with former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying calling out the global bank for not making its “stance” clear on the legislation.

On Wednesday, Jardines Group, one of Hong Kong’s original foreign trading houses, published a full-page statement in pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao saying it was important to enact a legal framework to safeguard the city’s national security.

“It can ensure that Hong Kong continues to absorb investment, increase job opportunities and guarantee people’s livelihood,” Jardines said in the statement.

The group’s flagship company, Jardine Matheson Holdings (JARD.SI), is listed in Singapore.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Beijing’s decision would “dramatically” erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the United Kingdom was prepared to change its immigration rules to accommodate Hong Kong residents.

Even before China announced its plan for the security law, there was a surge in renewals of British National Overseas Passports by Hong Kong residents, while immigration consultants have reported a rush of inquiries from people looking to move overseas.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accused foreign governments on Tuesday of “double standards” in their reaction to Beijing’s plans. Lam was in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss the legislation, which is yet to be drafted, but is expected to be implemented by September.

Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree, Donny Kwok, Marius Zaharia; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Stephen Coates

Source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/wFIW0TTRTVY/u-s-firms-concerned-as-tensions-simmer-in-hong-kong-over-looming-legislation-idUSKBN23A091

Blockchain

India to have a ‘window’ for Bitcoin, says minister amid crypto ban FUD

The Ministry of Finance of India continues to form a careful position on private cryptocurrencies.

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The minister of finance of India, Nirmala Sitharaman, has given a ray of hope for the Indian cryptocurrency community as more fear, uncertainty and doubt circulate regarding a supposedly impending ban on digital assets. 

In a Saturday interview with India Today, Sitharaman emphasized that the ministry does not plan to shut off Indian innovations associated with Bitcoin (BTC) and its underlying blockchain technology.

“From our side, we are very clear that we are not shutting all options off. We will allow certain windows for people use, so that experiments on the blockchain, Bitcoins or cryptocurrency […] and fintech, which depend on such experiments, will have that window available for them. We are not going to shut it off,” she said.

Sitharaman said that the ministry is finalizing a cabinet note on crypto as India continues formulating its official stance on the asset class. “It is nearing completion, and then it will be taken to the cabinet. The Supreme Court had commented on cryptocurrency. We are very clear that the Reserve Bank of India will take a call on an official cryptocurrency,” she said.

After India’s supreme court lifted a crypto banking ban one year ago, reports of a new ban started circulating in early 2021. In February, another anonymous Indian official claimed that the government was about to introduce a complete ban on crypto, giving investors up to six months to liquidate their holdings.

On Sunday, Reuters published a report citing an anonymous senior government official who claimed that India is preparing to enforce a blanket ban on crypto and impose major penalties on rule-breakers. As part of an alleged bill, India is planning to criminalize “possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets,” the source claimed.

Despite reports of a ban from anonymous sources continuing to surface, Sitharaman said in early March that the ministry wants to form a “calibrated” stance on digital assets. 

Nischal Shetty, founder of local crypto exchange WazirX, seemed optimistic about Sitharaman’s comments in a tweet, stating that it is time for the Indian crypto community to build. 

The RBI and the Ministry of Finance did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

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Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/india-to-have-a-window-for-bitcoin-says-minister-amid-crypto-ban-fud

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Reuters

Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – The blank check firm co-founded by one of the most prominent U.S. financial technology investment bankers will broaden its search for merger partners to companies worth up to $10 billion after pricing a larger initial public offering (IPO).

Steve McLaughlin started FT Partners in 2001 and since then, the fintech-focused investment bank has worked on mergers and acquisitions and public and private fundraising for the likes of BlackRock Inc, StoneCo Ltd and GreenSky Inc.

An alumnus of Goldman Sachs, McLaughlin and FT Partners have also been involved in advising a half-dozen firms in mergers with so-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), most recently mobile bank MoneyLion’s $2.9 billion combination with Fusion Acquisition Corp.

Alongside Gene Yoon, founder of technology-focused investment firm Bregal Sagemount, McLaughlin is now sponsoring his own SPAC. Independence Holdings Corp. priced a $435 million IPO on Monday, having increased the number of units sold due to investor demand.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds from investors to take a private company public.

Pulling in extra cash and fully exercising the greenshoe, a share allotment potentially sold in the days after an IPO prices, McLaughlin told Reuters on Tuesday, will allow Independence to target larger fintech companies, beyond the $5 billion maximum size previously considered.

He added a deal involving a company that processes payments between businesses, or one providing financial management services, would be likely for Independence.

“We provide an incredibly attractive option for a company as we’ve successfully taken many companies through this complex process, so we can give comfort to founders and investors along the way,” McLaughlin said.

Despite heightened investor interest in cryptocurrencies, McLaughlin said Independence wouldn’t be investing in a firm in that industry because most businesses are still too early in their development.

He added it was highly unlikely that Independence would end up merging with a client of his investment bank.

Source: Reuters – Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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Reuters

Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC – source

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(Reuters) – Former Walt Disney Co executives Kevin Mayer and Thomas Staggs plan to raise $300 million in an initial public offering for a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The duo’s first SPAC, Forest Road Acquisition Corp, agreed a three-way merger last week with fitness companies Beachbody LLC and Myx Fitness LLC that was valued at around $2.9 billion.

Former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, who is also on the board of directors at pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc, and Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, are working for Forest Road II as a strategic advisor and a director, respectively, the source said.

Mayer and Staggs will serve as co-chief executives and co-chairmen of the new SPAC, the source said. They had worked with the first Forest Road SPAC as a strategic advisor and director, respectively.

The source requested anonymity ahead of a regulatory disclosure on the SPAC IPO.

Mayer was Disney’s top streaming executive before he left the media giant last year to become the chief executive of popular video app TikTok. He departed the company three months after joining. Staggs worked at Disney for 26 years and held various roles including chief operating officer.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds to take a private company public. They have gained immense popularity since last year, as they allow companies to go public by eschewing traditional IPOs.

A string of high-profile SPACs have been raised in the last 12 months, including by financial investors William Ackman and Barry Sternlicht, former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Source: Reuters – Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC-source

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Reuters

Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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(Reuters) – Companies raised $546 billion from new bond and share issues in January, as a flood of central bank money-printing and recovering stock markets brought record numbers of new listings, SPAC deals and share sales, Refinitiv data showed on Wednesday.

The numbers included $106.15 billion in initial public offerings (IPOs), SPACs and secondary offerings, with the amount of money raised by SPACs alone soaring 20 times to $24.26 billion from a year earlier, the data showed.

Companies also raised nearly $439.9 billion in corporate debt in January, a 5% fall since the same period last year, but still the second largest January in 25 years.

A SPAC, a shell company that raises money in an IPO before later merging with a privately held company to take the latter public, has become many investors structure of choice over the past year.

January’s haul was already 30% of a total $79 billion raised by SPACs in the whole of 2020.

Traditional IPO volumes in the United States, however, remained higher than SPACs in January, hitting a 25-year high of $33.9 billion.

Some 47% new bond and share issues were U.S. offerings in January this year, with China second with $23.96 billion.

Nasdaq was the clear winner among exchanges, with 167 issues raising $41.12 billion, followed by the New York Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Exchange a close third, with both raking in a little more than $18 billion respectively.

That was in stark contrast to European financial hubs London and Frankfurt, which raised $4.29 billion and $1.72 billion respectively.

Chinese online video company Kuaishou Technology is the biggest IPO globally so far this year, raising $5.42 billion in Hong Kong, followed by Polish parcel locker business InPost SA which raised $3.40 billion in Amsterdam.

Source: Reuters – Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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