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HSBC CEO says Bitcoin not for us

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HSBC has no plans to launch a cryptocurrency trading desk or offer the digital coins as an investment to customers, because they are too volatile and lack transparency, its Chief Executive Noel Quinn told Reuters.

Europe’s largest bank’s stance on cryptocurrencies comes as the world’s biggest and best-known, Bitcoin, has tumbled nearly 50% from the year’s high, after China cracked down on mining the currency and prominent advocate Elon Musk tempered his support.

It marks it out against rivals such as Goldman Sachs, which Reuters in March reported had restarted its cryptocurrency trading desk, and UBS which other media said was exploring ways to offer the currencies as an investment product.

“Given the volatility we are not into Bitcoin as an asset class, if our clients want to be there then of course they are, but we are not promoting it as an asset class within our wealth management business,” Quinn said.

“For similar reasons we’re not rushing into stablecoins,” he said, referring to digital currencies such as Tether that seek to avoid the volatility typically associated with cryptocurrencies by pegging their value to assets such as the U.S. dollar.

Bitcoin traded at $36,387 on Monday, down nearly 50% in just 40 days from its year high of $64,895 on April 14.

Pressure on the currency intensified after the billionaire Tesla Chief Executive and cryptocurrency backer Musk reversed his stance on Tesla accepting Bitcoin as payment.

However, Quinn said that he was a believer in central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), which several countries including the United States and China are working on.

“CBDCs can facilitate international transactions in e-wallets more simply, they take out friction costs and they are likely to operate in a transparent manner and have strong attributes of stored value,” he said.

HSBC is talking to several governments about their CBDC initiatives, including countries such as Britain, China, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, he said.

‘DIFFICULT QUESTIONS’

China’s CBDC project is one of the most advanced among major global economies. City-wide trials involving state-owned banks began last year, and there is also a pilot project for cross border use underway in Hong Kong.

China is also involved in a separate project exploring CBDCs for cross-border payments, which HSBC has been involved in.

While Beijing presses ahead with central bank digital currencies, it has stepped up efforts to curb usage of cryptocurrencies.

China, which is central to HSBC’s growth strategy, said last Tuesday that it had banned financial institutions and payment companies from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions.

Reuters reported in April that HSBC had banned customers in its online share trading platform from buying shares in Bitcoin-backed MicroStrategy, saying in a message to clients that it would not facilitate the buying or exchange of products related to virtual currencies.

Quinn said his scepticism of cryptocurrencies partly arose from the difficulty of assessing the transparency of who owns them, as well as problems with their ready convertibility into fiat money.

“I view Bitcoin as more of an asset class than a payments vehicle, with very difficult questions about how to value it on the balance sheet of clients because it is so volatile,” he said.

“Then you get to stablecoins which do have some reserve backing behind them to address the stored value concerns, but it depends on who the sponsoring organisation is plus the structure and accessibility of the reserve.”

The soaring popularity of cryptocurrencies has posed a problem for mainstream banks in recent years, as they try to balance catering to clients’ interest with their own regulatory obligations to understand the source of their customers’ wealth.

(Reporting By Lawrence White and Rachel Armstrong, additional reporting by Alun John in Hong Kong; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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More China coal investments overseas cancelled than commissioned since 2017

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More China-invested overseas coal-fired power capacity was cancelled than commissioned since 2017, research showed on Wednesday, highlighting the obstacles facing the industry as countries work to reduce carbon emissions.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said that the amount of capacity shelved or cancelled since 2017 was 4.5 times higher than the amount that went into construction over the period.

Coal-fired power is one of the biggest sources of climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions, and the wave of cancellations also reflects rising concerns about the sector’s long-term economic competitiveness.

Since 2016, the top 10 banks involved in global coal financing were all Chinese, and around 12% of all coal plants operating outside of China can be linked to Chinese banks, utilities, equipment manufacturers and construction firms, CREA said.

But although 80 gigawatts of China-backed capacity is still in the pipeline, many of the projects could face further setbacks as public opposition rises and financing becomes more difficult, it added.

China is currently drawing up policies that it says will allow it to bring greenhouse gas emissions to a peak by 2030 and to become carbon-neutral by 2060.

But it was responsible for more than half the world’s coal-fired power generation last year, and it will not start to cut coal consumption until 2026, President Xi Jinping said in April.

Environmental groups have called on China to stop financing coal-fired power entirely and to use the funds to invest in cleaner forms of energy, and there are already signs that it is cutting back on coal investments both at home and abroad.

Following rule changes implemented by the central bank earlier this year, “clean coal” is no longer eligible for green financing.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s biggest bank by assets and a major source of global coal financing, is also drawing up a “road map” to pull out of the sector, its chief economist Zhou Yueqiu said at the end of May.

 

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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Bank of Montreal CEO sees growth in U.S. share of earnings

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Bank of Montreal expects its earnings contribution from the U.S. to keep growing, even without any mergers and acquisitions, driven by a much smaller market share than at home and nearly C$1 trillion ($823.38 billion) of assets, Chief Executive Officer Darryl White said on Monday.

“We do think we have plenty of scale,” and the ability to compete with both banks of similar as well as smaller size, White said at a Morgan Stanley conference, adding that the bank’s U.S. market share is between 1% and 5% based on the business line, versus 10% to 35% in Canada. “And we do it off the scale of our global balance sheet of C$950 billion.”

($1 = 1.2145 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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GameStop falls 27% on potential share sale

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Shares of GameStop Corp lost more than a quarter of their value on Thursday and other so-called meme stocks also declined in a sell-off that hit a broad range of names favored by retail investors.

The video game retailer’s shares closed down 27.16% at $220.39, their biggest one-day percentage loss in 11 weeks. The drop came a day after GameStop said in a quarterly report that it may sell up to 5 million new shares, sparking concerns of potential dilution for existing shareholders.

“The threat of dilution from the five million-share sale is the dagger in the hearts of GameStop shareholders,” said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management. “The meme trade is not working today, so logic for at least one day has returned.”

Soaring rallies in the shares of GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings over the past month have helped reinvigorate the meme stock frenzy that began earlier this year and fueled big moves in a fresh crop of names popular with investors on forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets.

Many of those names traded lower on Thursday, with shares of Clover Health Investments Corp down 15.2%, burger chain Wendy’s falling 3.1% and prison operator Geo Group Inc, one of the more recently minted meme stocks, down nearly 20% after surging more than 38% on Wednesday. AMC shares were off more than 13%.

Worries that other companies could leverage recent stock price gains by announcing share sales may be rippling out to the broader meme stock universe, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Capital.

AMC last week took advantage of a 400% surge in its share price since mid-May to announce a pair of stock offerings.

“It appears that other companies, like GameStop, are hoping to follow AMC’s lead by issuing shares and otherwise profit from the meme stocks run-up,” Ablin said. “Investors are taking a dim view of that strategy.”

Wedbush Securities on Thursday raised its price target on GameStop to $50, from $39. GameStop will likely sell all 5 million new shares but that amount only represents a “modest” dilution of 7%, Wedbush analysts wrote.

GameStop on Wednesday reported stronger-than-expected earnings, and named the former head of Amazon.com Inc’s Australian business as its chief executive officer.

GameStop’s shares rallied more than 1,600% in January when a surge of buying forced bearish investors to unwind their bets in a phenomenon known as a short squeeze.

The company on Wednesday said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had requested documents and information related to an investigation into that trading.

In the past two weeks, the so-called “meme stocks” have received $1.27 billion of retail inflows, Vanda Research said on Wednesday, matching their January peak.

 

(Reporting by Aaron Saldanha and Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru and Sinead Carew in New York; Additional reporting by Ira Iosebashvili; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Shounak Dasgupta, Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski)

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