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A16z in talks to back CoinSwitch Kuber in first India investment – TechCrunch

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A16z is inching closer to making its first investment in a startup in India, the world’s second largest internet market that has produced over two dozen unicorns this year.

The Menlo Park-headquartered firm is in final stages of conversations to invest in Indian crypto trading startup CoinSwitch Kuber, three sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The proposed deal values the Bangalore-based firm at $1.9 billion, two sources said. Coinbase is also investing in the new round, one of the sources said.

CoinSwitch Kuber was valued at over $500 million in a round in April this year when it raised $25 million from Tiger Global. If the deal with A16z materializes, it will be CoinSwitch Kuber’s third financing round this year.

TechCrunch reported last week that CoinSwitch Kuber was in talks to raise its Series C funding at up to $2 billion valuation. The report, which didn’t identify a lead investor, noted that the Indian startup had engaged with Andreessen Horowitz and Coinbase in recent weeks.

Usual caveats apply: terms of the proposed deal may change or the talks may not result in a deal. The author reported some details about the deal on Wednesday.

The startup declined to comment. Coinbase and A16z as well as existing investors Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital India did not respond to requests for comment.

The investment talks come at a time when CoinSwitch Kuber has more than doubled its user base in recent months — even as local authorities push back against crypto assets. Its eponymous app had over 10 million users in India last month, up from about 4 million in April this year, the startup said in a newspaper advertisement over the weekend.

A handful of crypto startups in India have demonstrated fast-pace growth in recent years — while impressively keeping their CAC very low — as millions of millennials in the South Asian nation kickstart their investment journeys. Several funds including those with big presence in India such as Accel, Lightspeed, WEH and Kalaari recently began working on their thesis to back crypto startups, TechCrunch reported earlier.

B Capital backed CoinDCX, a rival of CoinSwitch Kuber that has amassed 3.5 million users, last month in a $90 million round that valued CoinDCX at about $1.1 billion.

Policymakers in India have been debating on the status of digital currencies in the South Asian market for several years. India’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India, has expressed concerns about private virtual currencies though it is planning to run trial programs of its first digital currency as soon as December.

About 27 Indian startups have become a unicorn this year, up from 11 last year, as several high-profile investors — and global peers of Andreessen Horowitz — such as Tiger Global and Coatue have increased the pace of their investments in the South Asian market. Apna announced earlier on Thursday that it had raised $100 million in a round led by Tiger Global at $1.1 billion valuation, becoming the youngest Indian firm to attain the unicorn status.

Groww, an investment app for millennials, is in talks to raise a new financing round that would value it at $3 billion, TechCrunch reported on Wednesday. The startup has engaged with Coatue in recent days, the report said.

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Simon Kronenfeld: Best Performing Stocks on TSX in 2021

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Simon Kronenfeld is well-experienced in analyzing stocks across North American markets. Recently he has turned his attention to the Toronto Stock Exchange in particular. Although less liquid than US exchanges, there remains strong potential for reliable returns if you know your way around the TSX. Spotting the stocks with the potential to survive and thrive in changing times will be a key skill in 2021.

Simon Kronenfeld dwells upon three companies that are performing well on the TSX in 2021.

  • Goeasy Ltd: Goeasy’s success is a reflection of the wider financial sector in general. The company primarily offers loans for home appliances and furniture through their easyHome and easyFinancial divisions.

The company has issued around $5 billion in loans to date, and they continue to help Canadian borrower’s build their credit scores, with 60% of customers increasing their credit scores within a year. Despite the pandemic, the company’s stocks have continued to deliver great returns over the last year. In fact, its share prices have risen 210% since August 2020. Considering the wider economy, Goeasy is looking like a sound investment for the future.

  • TFI International: TFI International had some negative news at the start of the year as its stock prices slipped, but they have bounced back to triple the value of that period. These temporary dips are not a major obstacle for smart companies with the right plan.

TFI International is a logistics company with over 500 access points across North America. This company covers all the major sectors of the industry, including Package and Courier, Truckload, and Logistics, and provides more than 31,000 jobs.

The company recently acquired UPS’s Less-Than-Truckload freight service, which has led to a major transformation in their revenue distribution. Now the company predicts 75% of their revenue to come from the US market, where there is more growth potential. Simon expects to see long-term growth and value from this one, despite the stock price boost it has already experienced.

The company has made major improvements to its efficiency following the acquisition, putting it on the right path to make further inroads into the US market.

  • Shopify: Shopify is the most widely-used e-commerce marketing platform, used by small businesses and major operations alike to create online stores and sell products, thanks to its streamlined design process and in-built payment platform.

Business was already booming for Shopify before the pandemic, and the shift towards online shopping in the last year has only served to compound its successes. As a result, it has experience growth of 32% in the last year, and Simon expects this trend to continue.

Simon Kronenfeld is not only a businessman, he is also a business expert in today’s world. He founded the company Electronic Liquidators Inc. in 1999 and paving the way for many opportunities as he sold it and made his way into real estate. Now after 2 decades, Simon Kronenfeld is a real estate mastermind who plans to build luxury housing by the beach. If we think about what the driving force behind Simon Kronenfeld’s success has been, we can say that it is his self-motivation to do better.

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First U.S. futures-based bitcoin ETF begins trading, bitcoin nears record

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The first U.S.  bitcoin futures-based exchange-traded fund began trading on Tuesday, sending bitcoin to a six-month high and within striking distance of its all-time peak, as traders bet the ETF could boost investment flows into cryptocurrencies.

The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF began trading on Intercontinental Exchange Inc’s NYSE Arca on Tuesday under the ticker BITO after being greenlighted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Bitcoin futures have been overseen by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for four years and ETFs – securities that track an asset and can be bought or sold on a stock exchange – are regulated by the SEC, offering some level of investor protection, SEC chair, Gary Gensler, said on Tuesday.

“Yet it’s still a highly speculative asset class and investors should understand that underneath, there is the same volatility and speculation,” he told CNBC.

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, touched $63,337.54 after the listing, its highest since mid-April and near its record of $64,895.22.

Known throughout its 13-year life for its volatility, bitcoin has risen by some 40% this month on hopes the advent of bitcoin ETFs – of which several are in the works – will see billions of dollars managed by pension funds and other large investors flow into the sector.

The BITO ETF was last at $40.95, up slightly from its $40.88 open.

“It has traded tightly, within a penny of fair value pretty much all morning, so it’s part of the ecosystem,” said Dave Nadig, chief investment officer and director of research at ETF Trends.

The ETF had traded around $500 million worth, notionally, by late morning, which is “about what we would expect for a media-darling first launch in the space,” he said.

Much of BITO’s initial volume appeared to be from retail investors, as there were only four block trades, above 10,000 shares, all morning, Nadig said.

Nasdaq Inc on Friday approved the listing of the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF, and Grayscale, the world’s largest digital currency manager, plans to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into a spot bitcoin ETF, the company confirmed.

Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe amid surging interest in digital assets. VanEck and Valkyrie are among fund managers pursuing U.S.-listed ETF products, although Invesco on Monday dropped its plans for a futures-based ETF.

The SEC has yet to approve a spot bitcoin ETF.

Bitcoin futures were up 2.21% at $63,035.

(Reporting by John McCrank in New York, Tom Wilson in London; additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore and Katanga Johnson in Washington; Editing by Kim Coghill, Jason Neely and Andrea Ricci)

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Opinion: Caisse's investment in a cryptocurrency company at odds with its pledge to fight climate change – The Globe and Mail

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Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec announced last week that it is taking part in a US$400-million investment in Celsius Network, a New Jersey-based cryptocurrency-lending platform.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec’s first-ever investment in a cryptocurrency company is providing Canadians with a reality check on its climate commitments.

With the ink barely dry on its new climate change strategy, Canada’s second-largest pension fund manager announced last week that it is taking part in a US$400-million investment in Celsius Network, a New Jersey-based cryptocurrency-lending platform.

U.S. private-equity firm WestCap Group is the lead investor in that transaction. Nonetheless, the Caisse’s involvement is raising eyebrows. That’s because Canadian pension funds, which generally have conservative risk appetites, have largely eschewed significant investments in crypto companies. But this particular investment is also curious because it is inconsistent with the Caisse’s recent environmental evangelism.

To be clear, Celsius Network is not a cryptocurrency. Rather, the company facilitates cryptocurrency lending to retail and institutional investors.

Celsius Network, though, does earn some revenue from cryptocurrency mining. That’s the process through which computers create new digital coins by solving complex mathematical equations to verify transactions and record them on a public digital ledger.

Since cryptocurrency mining requires significant computing power, the process is energy intensive, results in greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change.

Although Celsius Network is not primarily a cryptocurrency miner, digital currencies are integral to its business model. That means Celsius Network (and by extension the Caisse as one of its investors) reaps benefits from other people’s mining.

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For its part, the Caisse is defending its investment in Celsius Network.

“Celsius is a lending platform – not a cryptocurrency – that provides access to fair, rewarding, and transparent financial services, with mining operations that account for a small portion of revenue and are based exclusively in North America, where it can primarily rely on renewable energy sources,” Alexandre Synnett, executive vice-president and chief technology officer at the Caisse, said in an e-mailed statement.

“More importantly, it is also a carbon-neutral business and we expect this to continue going forward,” he added.

The devil, of course, is in the details. For instance, the Caisse can’t guarantee that all cryptocurrency deposited and lent out on Celsius Network’s platform was created using renewable energy.

To illustrate this point, one only needs to consider the environmental impact of bitcoin, which is the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.

Although some proponents have previously claimed that a majority of bitcoin miners use renewable energy, a 2020 study from the University of Cambridge concluded that renewables comprise only 39 per cent of the total energy consumption for mining.

It’s also worth noting that until recently, the vast majority of bitcoin mining took place in China, which generates much of its power from coal. (China banned cryptocurrency mining and trading in May, prompting miners to seek out other jurisdictions. The United States is now the world’s largest bitcoin mining centre.)

This year, a Bank of America report suggested that purchasing a single bitcoin was akin to owning 60 gas-powered cars. Former Caisse chief executive Michael Sabia has also taken a dig at bitcoin, previously comparing it to a lottery ticket – although he did distinguish the cryptocurrency from its underlying blockchain technology.

The Caisse declined to say how it will provide its stakeholders with climate-related disclosures for its Celsius Network investment from here on out.

Other institutional investors are paying close attention to the Caisse’s debut investment in this space. That’s precisely why the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures should provide detailed guidance on divulging the nitty-gritty of crypto-related investments.

The Caisse’s investment in Celsius Network, however, is just the latest indication that there are limits to its commitment to fight climate change.

Although the pension fund manager plans to sell off its remaining oil-producing assets and establish a $10-billion fund to decarbonize other high-emitting industrial sectors, it won’t divest its investments in oil and gas pipelines.

So, oil-producing assets are unacceptable, but pipelines and an investment in a cryptocurrency company are A-okay? It takes mental gymnastics to reconcile these exceptions with the Caisse’s public pledge to protect the environment.

The Caisse should just admit that it’s a casual climate crusader that has every intention of cherry-picking its goals. It should also come clean about any other caveats in its new climate change plan.

This issue doesn’t just concern Quebeckers. The Caisse has $390-billion in assets, which means its investment decisions matter to the country as a whole.

We get it. It’s not easy being green. But please spare us the spin.

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