A Top Crypto Exchange CEO Explains Why the 2020 Boom Is Different - BLOOMBERG
By Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway
Some Wall Street traders have embraced the cryptocurrency because its manic moments remind them of yesteryears.
Rob Catalanello couldâ€™ve sworn heâ€™d seen everything in his more than two decades on various foreign exchange desks in New York, from the unpegging of Brazilâ€™s and Argentinaâ€™s currencies from the dollar to the Russian debt crisis.
Then he started trading Bitcoin. In March, when the cryptocurrency plunged more than 30%, â€œit was more busy than any day I saw in 20-odd years in FX,â€ Catalanello says. â€œJust the amount of deals, the violence of the move, the unpredictability of the move, and the amount of risk that we had to hedge.â€
Catalanello, 56, whoâ€™s headed the U.S. unit of London-based electronic trading firm B2C2 for about a year and a half, is part of a wave of former currency traders whoâ€™ve joined the crypto world. Forget all the arguments about Bitcoinâ€™s intrinsic value, its technological merits, or whether it will ever be widely adopted as a way to pay for a cup of coffee. For many FX traders, what matters is that they can make money on its volatility. Others were drawn by the marketâ€™s infancy, hoping they could help chart its path forward. Once inside, many veteran foreign exchange traders have found that theyâ€™re on familiar territory, reminiscent of a time when currency markets were more manic.
In the early 1990s the FX world was highly fragmented, liquidity was thin, and large block trades could push prices around. It was a market ripe for manipulation. This led to a number of scandals, some even involving the worldâ€™s largest banks. But most important for daring traders, bid-ask spreads—the difference between what a buyer is willing to pay and what a seller is willing to accept—were wide. A quick trader could step into the middle and grab a profit.
â€œItâ€™s very similar to what youâ€™d see in crypto these days,â€ says Brad Bechtel, global head of foreign exchange at Jefferies LLC, who got his start in the business in the mid-1990s. â€œIt wasnâ€™t for everybody, it was a very difficult market to trade. You could lose a lot of money very quickly.â€
Volatility in currency has waned since then, and the market has matured, thanks largely to electronification and heavy central bank involvement following the 2008 financial crisis. This is life for FX traders now: The euro trades in a very tight range relative to the dollar, so even if youâ€™re really good at guessing the direction, youâ€™re not going to be able to make much money, says Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global, who in the â€™90s spent time with various hedge funds and big banks. FXâ€™s low volatility limits profits. But â€œbecause cryptos move, thatâ€™s what appeals to some market participants,â€ he says.
Thereâ€™s been a lot of action in the past year for those who heard the crypto market calling. Bitcoin, the largest digital coin, dropped from about $13,800 in June 2019 to below $4,000 in March. Itâ€™s currently hovering around $10,000. The monthly price change for Bitcoin so far this year averages 8%.
Ture Johnson lived through the changes in FX markets in the â€™90s. He remembers having to call in orders via a squawk box in the early part of the decade at Bank of America Corp., before electronic trading existed. Last year he made the leap to Floating Point Group, a crypto trading platform, where he runs the trading desk. â€œThereâ€™s definitely a lot of systematic, hedge fund trend-following guys sitting on the sidelines right now watching and going, â€˜Hey, I really want to get involved with this because thereâ€™s an opportunity to trade here and make money,â€™â€ Johnson says, describing the crypto curious. â€œPeople love volatility.â€
Well, professional trading people do. Retail crypto trading has waxed and waned since Bitcoinâ€™s manic surge in 2017—and subsequent crash. But institutional interest has picked up, especially in derivatives such as cryptocurrency options. Ownership of cryptocurrency has also consolidated. At the end of August about 2.1% of accounts controlled 95% of all Bitcoin supply, according to Flipside Crypto. At the same time nearly 29% of Bitcoin was in wallets that held from 1,000 to 10,000 tokens, according to Coin Metrics data.
This isnâ€™t to say everything about the crypto world feels familiar to FX veterans. Unlike any other corner of the financial world, itâ€™s a decentralized market thanks to blockchain technology. Itâ€™s also small. The foreign exchange market is the largest in the world, with more than $6.5 trillion traded daily, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Cryptocurrency exchanges on average have seen about $130 billion in trading per day over the past month.
Yet the marketâ€™s youth is one reason Catherine Coley was drawn to it. She left Wall Street in 2016 after spending five years with Morgan Stanley at its Hong Kong and London FX desks. The experience was thrilling, she says, but after a while the â€œsparkle and luster of big risk, big rewardâ€ waned in the banking industry. Sheâ€™s now chief executive officer at the crypto trading platform Binance US. Over the years, Coley has seen a number of former colleagues make the move into crypto —â€œalmost to the extent we could resurrect the whole desk,â€ she says.
â€œIt really is a nimble enough industry for us to get some things right,â€ Coley says. —With Kenneth Sexton and Olga Kharif
Sterling reverses losses after falling to two-month low - REUTERS
By Maiya Keidan
LONDON (Reuters) - The pound recouped losses after slipping to two-month lows against the dollar on Tuesday, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson British Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to impose new restrictions to tackle a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.
FILE PHOTO: British five pound banknotes are seen in this picture illustration taken November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
Sterling recovered as much as 0.08% to $1.2826 against the dollar at 0840 GMT, after sliding as low as 1.2714 earlier on Tuesday, its lowest since July 23 . The pound was at 92 pence against the common European currency.
â€œSterlingâ€™s slide at the beginning of the European session today underpinned the concerns that the investors have for the UK economy, which is right in the middle of this,â€ said Gavin Friend, senior FX strategist at NAB Group.
The pound recovered after Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey warned escalating coronavirus cases reinforced the downside risks in his latest forecasts for the economy on Tuesday as he continues to consider whether negative rates would be effective in Britain.
Bailey said the Bank of Englandâ€™s latest policy statement did not imply it would necessarily use negative interest rates, and that observers should not read too much into it.
Johnson will tell people on Tuesday to work from home and announce new curbs on pubs, bars and restaurants, stopping some way short of a full national lockdown of the sort he imposed in March.
â€œAssuming a full two-week lockdown (â€˜circuit-breakerâ€™) is avoided, the markets may show signs of relief given there has for some time been a strong assumption that full lockdowns like in March-May would be avoided,â€ MUFG Research said in a note.
Latest weekly positioning data shows a small long position in favour of the British pound, but the magnitude of the long bets is barely above zero and is far below the highs of nearly $2.8 billion in March.
However, the positioning data is at odds with signals from the derivative markets which point to more weakness for the pound. Three-month risk reversals, a ratio of calls to puts for the currency, are approaching 2020 lows.
â€œThe UK also has some pretty unique challenges with Brexit,â€ Friend said. â€œIf a deal is struck, sterling is going to rally hard, and if there isnâ€™t, sterling is going to be vulnerable. Thatâ€™s why markets are very flighty on sterling.â€
The British government is attempting to pass a bill through Parliament that would allow it to break its Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union.
Reporting by Maiya Keidan, additional reporting by Thyagaraju Adinarayan and Saikat Chatterjee; editing by Sinead Cruise, Larry King
Air Peace increases daily flights to Enugu - NAN
Management of Air Peace announces increase in number of flights from Lagos to Enugu, with effect from Sept. 22.
By Yunus Yusuf
The management of Air Peace has announced an increase in the number of flights from Lagos to Enugu, with effect from Sept. 22.
This is contained in a statement in Lagos by Mr Stanley Olisa, External Relations Officer, Air Peace on Tuesday.
He assured Enugu passengers of seamless flights.
â€œAs we commence a daily second Los-Enugu-Los in the afternoon. Passengers can now leave Lagos for Enugu in the morning and still come back to Lagos in the evening, same day with Air Peace.
â€œWhile this is going on, we are almost finished with plans to reintroduce our night stop and early morning flights in and out of Enugu to Lagos daily.
â€œWe thank our teeming customers for their unflinching loyalty to the Air Peace brand,â€ he said. (NAN)
Nigeria High Commission in Canada reopens - DAILY POST
By Wale Odunsi
The Nigerian High Commission in Canada will resume in-person immigration and consular services on Thursday.
The commission was closed six months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It only issued Emergency Travel Certificates (ETC) and visas to applicants needing urgent travels, via email.
An update on Tuesday listed rules that applicants must comply with.
They are to apply online and request for interview appointment through email.
â€œEveryone coming to the chancery has to come in with face masks/covering and sanitise their hands. You are also required to practice social distancingâ€, it stated.
The mission added that only those with printed interview invitations would be attended to.
Canadian family begs government for help to come home as adopted daughter urgently needs medical care - CBC
Girl's citizenship isn't finalized, Canadian immigration staff in West Africa were repatriated
BY Sarah Rieger Â· CBC News
When Derek and Emilie Muth left Calgary to adopt their daughter Zoe in Nigeria last October, they had no idea that nearly a year later — after a terrifying medical ordeal and the onset of a global pandemic — they'd still be stuck abroad with no word on when they can return home.
That's because despite their 2Â½-year-old daughter's adoption being complete, her citizenship is not yet finalized. Canadian immigration staff have been repatriated from the only government office in West Africa that can finish processing their paperwork.
The family has gone months with government officials seemingly not even opening their documents, according to an access to information request, and, until CBC News reached out, no reply from the immigration minister to their urgent requests.
They still have no update on their application.
We definitely feel forgotten and left behind. - Emilie Muth
"This family has done every single thing that every authority and every expert has recommended to them in order to comply with the federal, the domestic, the international laws, and they are just stuck," said Alicia Backman-Beharry, a lawyer who is representing the family pro bono.
"If there's anything that can be done to have their file reviewed in a timely fashion, it is going to make a difference in a toddler's life. She's not getting the medical care that she requires right now."
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said Zoe's application has been identified as a priority and officers continue to assess applications, but the Canadian High Commission in Accra, Ghana, is currently limited in its processing capacity.
"The adoption is complete, it's legal, it's done, we're just waiting on a visa to come home. It's been 10 months and we haven't been able to work, we've been away from our family. The pandemic has been really scary, navigating that abroad, she has a lot of medical difficulties," Emilie Muth said. "We definitely feel forgotten and left behind."
Derek Muth said he and his wife started their adoption journey in 2017.
Emilie is a nurse who has worked with children with blood disorders, so when they heard of a child with sickle cell anemia in government care in Nigeria, it seemed like it was meant to be.
"It just felt natural," she said.
A life-threatening infection, malaria
The couple finalized Zoe's adoption in Nigeria on Oct. 28, 2019, and shortly after submitted the second part of her application to the office in Accra, which would grant her Canadian citizenship and the ability to enter Canada.
The same week as the second and final part of their application was submitted, Zoe contracted a life-threatening infection, leading to sepsis, and severe anemia requiring a blood transfusion.
The quality of health care in Nigeria was poor, and while Derek was able to donate blood to Zoe — saving her life — both father and daughter contracted malaria.
A doctor at the hospital recommended the family leave the country for Barbados, as it's one of the few countries that allows Canadian and Nigerian visitors to stay for months without visas, so they could receive better medical care for Zoe.
The family arrived in Barbados in mid-December, after receiving permission to travel from Nigerian adoption authorities. Zoe's condition improved somewhat and the family continued to communicate with the office in Accra, waiting for their daughter's citizenship to be finalized.
Then the pandemic hit.
We've really taken a beating as a family. We need help. - Derek Muth
In February, the Muths asked the Canadian High Commission in Barbados for help to get home, given Zoe's medical concerns that put her at additional risk if she catches COVID-19.
Barbados gave residents and visitors just 24 hours notice before the country went into full lockdown. The family couldn't leave their apartment, or access groceries — they spent weeks eating just the canned food they had in their cupboards.
Alberta Children's Services requested an expedited review of the family's case from the Accra office, but no action was taken.
By May, no flights home were available. The family was told that they had just two days to make it onto a repatriation flight — they quickly filed a visitor visa request but were denied.
Their requests for a compassionate grant of a temporary resident permit or visa have been denied. They haven't heard from the office in Accra since April. Two other families who were also in West Africa have received completed applications, and have been able to return home.
"We've really taken a beating as a family," said Derek. "We need help."
Family spent nearly $70K while in limbo
Not including their initial costs to travel to Nigeria and complete the adoption, they've spent nearly $70,000 waiting to return home. That figure includes Zoe's health-care costs, which have been entirely out of pocket.
The family may not be able to stay in Barbados much longer.
They've been granted a second visa extension until the end of November. After that, they'll likely be forced to return to Nigeria, a country that Canada warns against travelling to due to the risk of terrorism or kidnapping, and where they may not be able to access proper medical care for Zoe.
If they can stay in Barbados, the situation isn't much better — every day abroad costs the family more, and access to medication on the island is uncertain, given the pandemic. There have been times the island has run out of Zoe's medications since the lockdown.
Soon, Derek will likely need to return to Canada for work, leaving Emilie to navigate Zoe's care alone.
"I feel emotional talking about that because we worked so hard at building trust with her and attachment … so leaving her, one of us having to leave her, it feels really hard," Emilie said through tears.
No updates to their application
In mid-September, after CBC News reached out, the Muths finally received a reply from the immigration minister's office after months of sending letters.
"Due to the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, IRCC is unable to provide processing times for applications at this time. Please rest assured that you will be contacted when there are updates to this application," the letter read, acknowledging that the response was likely not what the family "had anticipated."
"Understandably, adoptive parents are anxious to complete the adoption process as quickly as possible," a spokesperson for IRCC told CBC, but added that time frames can vary widely from case to case.
The IRCC spokesperson also said that the government is obligated under international conventions to ensure children are not trafficked or removed from their biological families without legal consent, and that the process is a complex one.
'Health of child is in jeopardy'
A access to information request filed by the Muths for the notes for the IRCC from the centralized Global Case Management System shows the second part of their application (filed in November) seemingly hasn't been started, and documents that show the adoption is complete do not even appear to have been opened, as there are no substantive updates to their file.
None of the letters the family sent between March and August requesting updates, nor multiple letters of support sent from an MP, and Alberta Children's Services or International Adoption Services are recorded, either.
There's a comment on the file that states "email sent to visa office as health of child is in jeopardy because of lack of access to medication" — but no response from the office in Accra.
"If Canada truly valued the best interest of the vulnerable, they would prioritize this adoption. Otherwise, we're just paying humanitarian lip service in this country," Derek said.
Mike Long, director of communications for Alberta Children's Services, said in an emailed statement that staff have been working with the Muth family and have advocated on their behalf to the immigration department.
"It is now up to the federal government to work with the family to get the necessary documentation to return to Canada," he said.
Why We Only Observe Social Distancing in Airports Terminals - Govt - VANGUARD
By Dirisu Yakubu
Abuja — The federal government says adherence to social distancing in the era of coronavirus is only applicable at airports terminals and not in the cabin.
Following the resumption of flights locally and internationally, owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic which grounded airport operations for months, there have been complaints about breach of the social distancing campaign particularly in airplane cabins.
In a chat with Vanguard on Tuesday, James Odaudu, Director, Media and Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Aviation, said adequate measures are in place to ensure both physical and social distancing at airport terminals, adding that in the cabin, distancing is unnecessary.
He said: "We need to understand that the Ministry is not toying with social distancing in all our airport terminals across the country. Airport personnel are working hand in hand with our staff members in this regard.
"However, there is no need for social distancing because of the way the airplane is made. I think the Minister has explained this many times in the past few months."
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had in August this year clarified the controversy surrounding distancing between passengers in aboard an aircraft.
"Because of the nature of the airplane, the airplane is hygienic enough. Once you have your mask, you are safe to remain seated on your seat.
"Airplanes are designed in such a way that the ambient air at altitude is clean. It is not contaminated," Sirika had said, adding that the cabin is safer than any hospital theatre because of the purifying procedures air circulated within the cabin goes through."
Vanguard News Nigeria.
EGYPT DISCOVERS ANCIENT COFFINS IN PYRAMIDS AMID TOURISM SLUMP - VENTURES AFRICA
The Egyptian ministry of tourism and antiquities has announced the discovery of 27 wooden sarcophagi (coffins) at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, a UNESCO world heritage site. The coffins were said to have been stacked in two burial shafts, according to a report.
Since its recent discovery, the ministry said that the coffins found at the Saqqara site have not been opened. The site is renowned as a burial ground with some of the worldâ€™s oldest pyramids and is one of the most notable tourist attractions in Egypt â€“ alongside the Pyramids of Giza, Luxorâ€™s Karnak Temple, and the Valley of the Kings â€“ that generate a huge chunk of foreign exchange for the country.
Tourism in Egypt plays a significant role in the economy, raking in an annual income of $12 billion dollars and accounting for over 12 percent of gross domestic product. The sector flourished in 2019, seeing a 21 percent jump in growth with more than 13.5 million tourists, and the country had projected 15 million visitors by the end of 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic has laid cold hands on the sector so much that even locals are not willing to visit sites.
In a move to revive arrest the slump, the country opted to reopen select resorts and archaeological sites to foreign tourists on July 1. Still, turnout has been not been encouraging as most other countries were still on lockdowns. Also, despite reopenings and continued safety reassurances to international tourists, many fear the coming winter season starting in October, further straining the economy.
According to expert views in a report, Egyptâ€™s tourism sector loses one billion dollars monthly due to the lockdown and restrictions on travel meant to rein in the coronavirus pandemic. That means the country is without some 400,000 tourists who spent four million nights every month at some of its exotic resorts â€“ such as the Red Sea resorts where tourists spend an average of 10 nights.
Worries over Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road - BLUEPRINT
TOPE SUNDAY writes on the seeming controversy over the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road project and urges stakeholders to allow the project completed within the stipulated time.
For some time now, the poor state of Abuja/Kaduna/Zaria/Kano road has become a serious menace to its users, giving the dilapidated condition of that stretch of road.
However, some two years ago, the peopleâ€™s hope for a better deal was raised when the federal government awarded the road to construction giant-Julius Berger Plc. And of course, considering the track record of the company in the construction industry, the people, nay, the motoristsâ€™ expectation that the stretch of road would be fixed in no distant time is not misplaced after all.
But some developments around the project have raised some concerns among Nigerians and also industry watchers. A major issue in this regard is the â€˜slow pace of workâ€™ as alleged by Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Works Abubakar Bichi against JB Plc.
A public hearing organised by the committee was all the giant construction firm needed to clear the air on the allegation by the lawmaker. Speaking at the session July, Managing Director of the firm, Dr. Lars Richter, said all things being equal, the company â€œis working on schedule, meeting and exceeding planned construction milestones and focused on delivering the project as contracted.â€
He said all requisite human and technical resources, including new technologies, had been mobilised and deployed along the whole length of the project corridor to ensure successful completion of the works as duly contracted.
House committee visits
And as part of its oversight function, the Bichi-led committee subsequently visited the Abuja-Kano road project site and some other ongoing road projects in the North-west geo-political zone. For instance, during the visit to the Abuja-Kano project site, the committee was reported to have said out of the N155 billion contract sum, JB Plc received N70 billion. The committee chair was further reported to have said out of the 165- kilometre Abuja/Kaduna axis, the company could only accomplish 10kilometres, six kilometres out of the 75 kilometres Kaduna to Zaria, and achieved less than 20 kilometres out of the 157-kilometer Zaria/Kano section. From his submission, it can be said that only 10 per cent work was accomplished.
Countering the committee however, JB Plc told the lawmakers that the project had progressed to 49%, insisting that the onus of proof that only 10 % of works was done rest on the person(s) making the assertion.
The question then arises: how were both the 10 percent as well as 49 per cent scope of works arrived at?
Whatâ€™s JBâ€™s pedigree?
The shocking â€˜slow paceâ€™ of work forces one, particularly those in the built industry to ask if the allegation can be true of this construction giant. Does the firm have any pedigree? At different times of the nationâ€™s life, It is on record that the German firm, a brand known and synonymous with quality, has been part of the nationâ€™s infrastructure development process.
One of such infrastructure that stands out is the Eko Bridge in Lagos built 1965. This is aside several other quality projects in many parts pf the country. Why the hues and cries over Abuja/Kano road project? Has JB plc lost its Midas touch? Is there a fifth columnist somewhere?
Our independent checks revealed the real status of the controversial project as well as similar others being handled by the firm. While the House is yet to show the indicators used to arrive at such conclusion of â€˜slow pace of workâ€™, checks revealed that N70billion payment made to the contractor, was to take care among others, the initial 15% (i.e. about N23billion) of the project cost of N155 billion that was paid as advance payment for the contract.
This, a source at the Federal Ministry of Works said, is a common contractual practice in engineering, adding that the said N23billion is being paid back periodically by the Julius Berger, being the contractor to the client which is the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Besides this advance payment (N23billion) being paid back by the contractor or deducted, the balance of the N70billion is the actual payment for works duly executed and properly certified by the client, and even further certified twice by international consultants under international due diligence standards, before any payment is made to the contractor.
This, Blueprint gathered, is what the committee is yet to accept as reality.
â€œWe showed the House Committee other contractual agreements with different contractors and how projects are executed and payments made, but we are at a loss with what the House Committee really wants.â€
â€œI can tell you that, this is one of the best roads in Nigeria as the contractor has brought in novel equipment which guarantees strength, speed and environmental friendliness. This is the first time we are having a Cold Recycling Methodology Equipment being brought into the country by a contractor. The technology will guarantee the road to last for a minimum of 30 years before the next maintenance is expected to be carried out like in the United States,â€ the top government source further said.
A visit to communities along project corridor also showed that at certain portions of the road project, electrical poles are still standing thereby disrupting the projectâ€™s right of way, thus suggesting there are still pending issues of compensation for relocation of services and clearance of right of way for certain parts of the project.
Again, our source corroborated this, saying the client (federal government)is â€œfrantically working to resolve this to enhance speedy project implementation by the contractor.â€
Further to this, our reporter gathered that like any other project, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the pace of work and posed some challenges to supply chains, equipment and staff mobility, a development that ultimately affected the work schedules as initially agreed.
Firm keeps mum
Asked for comment, JB Plc told Blueprint that as a matter of policy, itâ€™s always guided by the confidentiality clause in its contract with its clients and would therefore not speak on the matter.
Rather, the firm advised Blueprint to seek further comments from the supervising ministry.
Cost per kilometre
While Bichi was quoted to have said â€œthe unit cost of the project per kilometre stands at about N450 million,â€ the zonal director of works in the north-west zone, Engr. Esan Folurunsho and the engineer representatives supervising the project, James Zira said â€œthe materials being used for the road project was cheaper for Nigeria.â€
Getting to know what the contract nature of the project remains a mirage, as the supervising ministry canâ€™t be reached as at the time of this report.
Nigerians want to know if the contract terms border on rehabilitation or total reconstruction of the entire project. Is the contracting firm working as scheduled? Could it be that some people are only trying to play the spoilers and frustrate the project?
These and many other questions must be answered if the people, for whom this project is designed and targeted at, are to really benefit from it.
Any other interest short of that of the people can only be counterproductive. More than any other thing, the strategic long term socio-economic well-being of the nation should be topmost priority and should guide the operationalisation of this laudable project.
With its reputation, stakeholders cannot but agree with the choice of JB Plc by the federal government for the battered Abuja/Kano project. If this is correct, then all hands must be on deck to ensure the project is realised within the stipulated time so that it can optimally benefit Nigerians. Anything short of this will certainly not be in the interest of the generality of Nigerians. The minister in charge, Babatunde Raji Fashola must also act fast and do the needful so the project doesnâ€™t go the way of other abandoned ones over needless controversy
CEO Says Bitcoin Is Safer After Moving Firmâ€™s Cash to Crypto - BLOOMBERG
By Olga Kharif
- MicroStrategyâ€™s Saylor invested $425 million into coin
- â€œWe were on a $500 million melting ice cube,â€ CEO says
MicroStrategy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Saylor says the Federal Reserveâ€™s recent relaxing of its inflation policy helped convinced him to put the remainder of the enterprise-software makerâ€™s cash into Bitcoin.
â€œWe feel pretty confident that Bitcoin is less risky than holding cash, less risky than holding gold,â€ Saylor said in an interview.
Before the Covid-19 crisis, the Tysons Corner, Virginia-based company had about $500 million mostly invested in short-term U.S. government securities. Saylor began to question that conventional strategy when yields tumbled in the wake of the pandemic. He estimates that so-called asset inflation will surge to more than 20% a year, eroding purchasing power.
â€œOnce the real yield on our treasury got to more than negative 10%, we realized that everything we are doing on P&L is irrelevant,â€ Saylor said. â€œWe really felt we were on a $500 million melting ice cube.â€
MicroStrategy invested some money in a share buyback and considered real-estate investments, but much of the commercial market has been decimated by Covid, he said. Gold is still being mined, decreasing future returns, unlike the finite amount of Bitcoin to be issued, he said.
So this summer, MicroStrategy became the first public company to invest the lionâ€™s share of its treasury in Bitcoin. In mid-August, the company announced it has purchased $250 million of the cryptocurrency, and on Sept. 15, Saylor bought an additional $175 million. He intends to continue buying with cash from operations.
The shift follows five consecutive years of revenue declines, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Adjusted earnings have also dropped for four straight years.
MicroStrategy likely had an easier time shifting to the controversial coin than other public companies face. Saylor, who co-founded the firm in 1989 when he was just 24-years-old, holds around 73% of the voting shares and almost a quarter of its equity. The company went public in 1998.
This isnâ€™t the first time Saylor has garnered headlines. He lost billions in personal wealth after the shares tumbled when the company was accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of overstating results. Saylor reached a settlement in 2000 without admitting or denying guilt.
Other private and public companies will likely get into Bitcoin in the next three to six months, he predicted.
â€œIt will probably be private companies first, because they donâ€™t have as much inertia,â€ Saylor said. â€œThe public companies our size, then mid-sized companies.â€
Saylor said when he talked with 10 large shareholders, most of them were â€œvery supportive and complimentaryâ€ about the $1.5 billion market cap company investing in Bitcoin.
Even so, Saylor said heâ€™s not a crypto diehard. If bond yields jump, for instance, he said he wonâ€™t hesitate to dump the cryptocurrency, though he has no immediate plans to sell.
â€œWe can liquidate it any day of the week, any hour of the day,â€Saylor said. â€œIf I needed to liquidate $200 million of Bitcoin, I believe I could do it on a Saturday. If I took a haircut, I believe it would be 2%.â€
While many crypto faithful have been saying that institutional investors are coming for years, that rush hasnâ€™t yet materialized. Bitcoin is highly volatile, and most company treasurers wouldnâ€™t consider it a viable alternative for what is typically seen as place to park cash for a short period.
Bitcoin hasnâ€™t been the game-changer Saylor was hoping for since the company announced its initial purchase on Aug. 11, though he doesnâ€™t seem too concerned. The largest cryptocurrency has dropped by about 6% to around $10,500. It is still up about 47% this year.
â€œVolatility isnâ€™t really a reason to sell,â€ Saylor said. â€œRight now this is the only thing we can find with a positive real yield.â€
— With assistance by Liz McCormick
(Updates with company performance data in seventh paragraph.)
NAHCON To Train State Pilgrims Board Officials On Hajj Savings Scheme - NAN
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has expressed commitment to train officials of State Muslim Pilgrimsâ€™ Welfare Boards on the Hajj Savings Scheme.
The Executive Chairman of the commission, Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan, said this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday by the head of Public Affairs, Mrs Fatima Usara.
According to the statement, Hassan stated this while on an inspection tour of Hajj Development Levy projects in Adamawa state.
Hassan said the training on hajj savings scheme would further enlighten personnel of state pilgrims boards on the scheme as significant stakeholders of the Hajj industry in the country.
The NAHCON Chairman commended the progress of works at their different levels of completion, which was at least at 70 per cent completion.
â€œThere is a hotel with 64-room capacity; the camp mosque has been completed 100 per cent, while work is on-going on the multipurpose hall and toilets.â€
The Chairman, who commended the contractor handling the project, gave him a two-month grace period to complete the project.
Hassan also used the opportunity to sensitise the state pilgrimsâ€™ officials on the Hajj Training Institute, the digitalisation of Hajj operations and the Commissionâ€™s plan to reduce the number of days spent in Saudi Arabia during the pilgrimage.
He implored the Adamawa State Government to assist NAHCONâ€™s aid with the construction of drainages at the Hajj camp, construction of access road to the site and the settlement of issues concerning the encroached NAHCONâ€™s land.
Responding, Dr Salihu Abubakar, Executive Secretary, Adamawa State Pilgrims Commission, revealed that 2020 registered intending pilgrims in the state, only 52 sought for a refund, which has been fully completed.
He expressed enthusiasm over the NAHCON initiatives, reassuring that staff of the state pilgrim commission would be among the first to register under the training institute.
â€œThis is because the commission takes staff capacity building seriously as a means of improving productivity,â€ Abubakar said.