What we’re tracking on 17 October 2019
** #8 – Making us proud this morning is Yehia Badawy, one of four co-founders behind theregion’s first fully licensed digital currency exchange. Based in Bahrain, “Rain is a digital currency exchange and custodian in the Middle East that allows people to buy, sell, and store digital currency in a regulated, secure, and compliant way,” according to an emailed statement (pdf). Rain received its sandbox license from the Central Bank of Bahrain in 2017 and has been running trial operations for nine months with an eye on becoming fully operational in 2019. The exchange will be held to strict international standards on security, regulation, and pricing, which the co-founders understand is integral to building trust with customers — which they note is “the biggest issue in this industry.”
Rain’s launch comes as someone is clearly playing with crypto in Egypt: Domestic bitcoin volumes surged in the first week of October to the local-currency equivalent of EGP 1.1 mn, almost as much as in all of September, according to data from Coin Dance (below).
Must-read of the morning: “The world’s largest insolvent private equity firm.” The Wall Street Journal has an insanely good (and detailed) drill-down into the flow of money as Abraaj allegedly used investor funds to pay its own operating expenses. “At least USD 660 mn of investor money was moved without the knowledge of most investors into bank accounts that forensic accountants call the Abraaj treasury, according to documents and people familiar with the situation. More than USD 200 mn flowed from those accounts to Mr. Naqvi and people close to him, according to company documents and people familiar with the situation.” Among the alleged beneficiaries: One of Naqvi’s sons, an online luxury-clothing retailer started by Naqvi’s former personal assistant, and a Pakistani influence peddler who was offered USD 20 mn to get a former prime minister to clear a transaction. Read Private-equity firm Abraaj raised bns pledging to do good — then it fell apart.
The Khashoggi affair is still front page news around the world, preoccupying the international business as top global banking execs drop out of a high-profile investment conference in the kingdom and US President Donald Trump appears to give cover to Riyadh’s trial balloon suggesting the dissident journalist was killed in an interrogation gone wrong. Blaming KSA for Khashoggi’s disappearance is another instance of “guilty until proven innocent,” Trump told the Associated Press overnight. The Donald’s remarks came as former New York Times Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick led a team of reporters in an investigation that alleges suspects in the Khashoggi case have direct ties to Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.
Uber valued at USD 120 bn in potential IPO, rival Lyft also looking at 2019 offering: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley presented Uber with proposals valuing the company at USD 120 bn in a potential IPO that could materialize in 2H2019, according to the Wall Street Journal. The proposed valuation is nearly 2x what Uber was valued at around two months ago, the Journal notes. However, there is no certainty “Uber will go public on the time frame or with the valuation envisioned by investment bankers hungry for fees,” particularly as the conditions of the IPO market are fickle. The Financial Times also has the story, and elsewhere the Journal notes that Uber rival Lyft has tapped JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse and Jefferies as underwriters for its USD 15 bn IPO, also scheduled for 2019.
Pot is legal in Canada today. Toronto’s Globe & Mail has the rundown on everything from where to buy it to how to invest in it and whether you can get high at work.
In miscellany this morning:
- How millennials and savings apps are making asset managers wake up and smell the coffee. (Financial Times)
- Older workers primed for a comeback: ‘Modern elders’ use life experience to offer advice and intergenerational expertise. (Financial Times)
- Why you have (probably) already bought your last car. (BBC)
- When your boss is an algorithm. (New York Times)
PSA- The PR blitz for this year’s Cairo International Film Festival has begun. The annual gathering runs this year 20-20 November, according to the breaking-news website of state-owned daily Al Ahram, which has declared it front-page news. Film buffs can visit the festival’s website here and check out the tally of submissions here.