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Mobile Phone Retailer Joins China's Blockchain Land Grab With US Company Investment – Coindesk

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Dixintong Technology Group, whose parent company, D.Phone, is one of the largest smartphone retailers in China, has entered the blockchain space by acquiring a minority stake in a U.S. blockchain company called Monsoon Blockchain.

The agreement was signed on Jan. 7 and the stake was sold at a nine-digit valuation, according to people who are familiar with the matter.

The partnership between the two companies comes at a time when China is encouraging enterprise blockchain adoption as well as the development of emerging technologies

Started as a mobile phone retailer in 1993, D.Phone went public in Hong Kong in 2014 with four anchor investors including Lenovo Group, Qihoo 360, China Telecom and TCL Corporation. Alibaba’s major e-commerce rival, JD.com, has also acquired 9 percent of Dixintong worth $30 million in July. The firm’s total market capitalization is around $200 million.

According to its 2018 annual report, the company sold nearly nine million cell phones in its more than 1,500 physical stores across the country, generating over $2 billion in revenue and $46 million in net profit for the year. 

The parent company has made efforts to expand its businesses to other related industries. It partnered with China’s Tianjin city government in December to build an industrial park focusing on 5G and IoT with a total investment estimated to be over $3 billion. 

Political boost

A slew of tech companies have explored blockchain technologies since Chinese President Jinping Xi called on the country to “seize opportunities” in the space. Stock prices skyrocketed for companies whose businesses are related to the new technology. 

“When you have that level of endorsement from the government, everything moves much faster,” Donald Basile, the Monsoon’s CEO, said. 

The country’s two largest telecommunications services providers, China Mobile and China Telecom, are members of a consortium that runs Blockchain-Based Service Network (BSN), a state-backed blockchain infrastructure project. 

The Chinese government is also rolling out 5G services in 2019 across the nation. The emerging technology would require new mobile devices. Most major carriers in China have started to offer 5G data plans and cloud services. 

The Shanghai government plans to spend millions of dollars on supporting a public blockchain project and open an incubation center for startups that want to build decentralized applications (dapps) on the blockchain. Meanwhile, the Guangdong province has launched a blockchain-based project to help small and medium-sized businesses borrow money from commercial banks. 

Top Chinese tech giants such as Alibaba and Baidu have also launched their own projects to integrate blockchain with cloud services. 

Blockchain-based marketplace

Monsoon Blockchain touts an ethereum-based protocol that aims to use smart contracts to provide a more efficient marketplace for cloud service providers and potential clients, according to Basile.

He said prices for cloud computing and storage services could vary over time between data centers, depending on locations and capacity. Basile believes that’s where blockchain can play a role. 

The firm aggregates prices and collects information about the conditions of data centers across the world. It then submits the data to the blockchain network, he said. On the other hand, companies that want to buy computing and storage services can submit their specific requirements.

The peer-to-peer blockchain-based protocol will use smart contracts to match those companies with the most suitable cloud services provider for them, according to Basile. 

Users now need to buy the network’s native token with fiat currency to use the smart contracts on the blockchain. While the token is only circulated within the network, the firm may consider launching a private token sale or issue a public offering in the future when regulators have a clear guidance on the processes, Basile said. 

Monsoon Blockchain worked with a spate of IT giants including IBM, Oracle and Alibaba as a data services distributor, said Basile, who previously headed Fusion-io and Violin Memory, both of which are data processing software and hardware providers.  

Billion-user access?

While Monsoon Blockchain primarily serves enterprise clients, the deal with Dixintong could boost a consumer-oriented business, potentially bringing users onto its blockchain protocol.

Besides mobile devices, Dixintong also sells telecommunications services such as data plans as a licensed virtual services operator. 

Basile said the partnership with Dixintong would give Monsoon the access to billions of users in China to reach a larger scale, which would be otherwise impossible in the U.S.

He said Monsoon could assign a unique identity to each smartphone user on its blockchain platform where they can enjoy cheaper data services thanks to its optimized cloud services solution.

In return, users’ data will be processed and stored in the network. When people use 5G services or devices that are connected to the internet they create much more data than the current network, and that can be valuable for companies to analyze for their business decisions, according to Basile.

“With the scale of people in China, you can have 20 million users in no time, so that’s a huge amount of computing and analytics needed to be harnessed,” Basile said.

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The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Investment firm head joins Algoma Steel's board – Sault Star

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The president and chief executive officer of a New York-based investment firm is a new Algoma Steel board member.

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Eric Rosenfeld founded Crescendo Partners in 1998.

He is a master of business administration graduate from Harvard University. Rosenfeld also serves on the boards of Primo Water Corp., CPI Aerostructures, Aecon Group and Pangaea Logistics Solutions, a release says.

He has served on boards since 1998. His first directorship was with Spar Aerospace, the company that developed the Canadarm used in space flights. Rosenfeld also served on the board of beverage maker Cott Corp.

He headed the arbitrage department of Oppenheimer & Co., an investment and brokerage bank, for 14 years before establishing Crescendo Partners.

Mary Anne Bueschkens, Gale Rubenstein, James Gouin, David Sgro, Brian Pratt and Rosenfeld join chair Andrew Harshaw, Andrew Schultz and Michael McQuade, a release says.

Our new board members bring critical expertise and diversity to the team,” said McQuade.

The other new members have backgrounds in the automotive, legal and construction sectors.

Bueschkens is a lawyer who has held various roles, including president and CEO of ABC Technologies, an automotive parts supplier.

Rubenstein is a partner in the Toronto-based law firm Goodmans LLP. She is counsel in the firm’s corporate restructuring group.

Gouin is a former head of Tower International, a global manufacturer of automotive products. He also worked 28 years at Ford Motor Company. He held two vice-president roles with the automaker.

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Sgro is a senior managing director at Crescendo Partners. The firm’s services include consulting, mergers, acquisitions and capital raising support and private equity investment.

Pratt is a former chair and director of Primoris Services Corp., a parent company of construction and engineering firms. He was also president and chief executive officer and board chair of the Dallas-based Primoris, and its predecessor entity, ARB Inc., from 1983 to 2015. Pratt is a former chair of Legato Merger Corp.

All the board members are independent, except McQuade. He is ASI’s CEO.

The Sault Ste. Marie steelmaker started trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.

– with files from Postmedia Network

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Micron Urges Government Investment with R&D Spend – The Next Platform

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Over the last twenty years, memory has risen from 10% of the semiconductor market to almost 30%, a trend that is expected to continue, propelled by compute at the edge all the way up to datacenter. To meet these demands, memory giant, Micron, has announced it will make $150 billion in internal investments, ranging from manufacturing and fab facilities to R&D to support new materials and memory technologies.

The nature of the announcement serves two purposes. The first is obvious, Micron is putting a stake in the ground around its bullish view for edge to datacenter growth and their role as a primary component maker. The second is only slightly less obvious: to compel the U.S. to match funds or continue new investment strategies to support U.S. fabs and semiconductor R&D.

While $150 billion is a sizable investment, the fab component of Micron’s plans will gobble up a significant fraction. While no fab is created equally, consider TSMC’s investments in new facilities, which are upwards of $9 billion. Such investments can take two to three years to yield but the time is certainly right. Gartner, for instance, estimates the costs for leading-edge semiconductor facilities to increase between 7-10%.

While DRAM and NAND are less expensive than leading edge technologies, Micron will need to choose carefully as it sets its plans in motion. Luckily, there is ample government support building in the U.S. for all homegrown semiconductor industry, although it is unclear how federal investments, including the $52 billion CHIPS Act, will augment Micron’s own ambitions.

Micron is seeking the attention of government with its broad R&D and manufacturing investment, pointing to the creation of “tens of thousands” of new jobs and “significant economic growth.” In a statement, Micron explained that memory manufacturing costs are 35-45% higher than in lower-end semiconductor markets, “making funding to support new semiconductor manufacturing capacity and a refundable investment tax credit critical to potential expansion of U.S. manufacturing as part of Micron’s targeted investment.”

“The growth of the data economy is driving increased customer demand for memory and storage,” said Executive Vice President of Global Operations Manish Bhatia. “Leading-edge memory manufacturing at scale requires production of advanced semiconductor technology that is pushing the laws of physics, and our markets demand cost-competitive operations. Sustained government support is essential for Micron to ensure a resilient supply chain and reinforce technology leadership for the long term.”

Micron CEO, Sanjay Mehrotra says the company will “look forward to working with governments around the world, including in the U.S. where CHIPS funding and the FABS Act would open the door to new industry investments, as we consider sites to support future expansion.” The subtext there is that the U.S. is only one country in the running, among others making investments.

Increasing government support will likely align with fabs and facilities but Micron says it’s working on next generation technologies set to keep pace with growing demand.

This is part of the company’s 2030-era plan for memory technology. Micron sees edge and cloud deployments expanding but also points to AI as the leading workload across deployment types. The company’s senior VP and GM for Compute and Networking, former Intel HPC lead, Raj Hazra, says that by 2025, 75% of all organizations will have moved beyond the AI experimentation stage into production.

To support this more practically, Micron has set forth some ambitious near-term targets, including reaching for 40% improvements in memory densities over existing DRAM, double SSD read throughput speeds over current 1TB SSDs, 15% power reductions over existing DRAM and 15% better performance for mixed workloads over existing NAND.

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Walmart allowing some shoppers to buy bitcoin at Coinstar kiosks

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Walmart Inc said on Thursday customers at some of its U.S. stores will be able to purchase bitcoin using ATM-like machines installed by  Coinstar.

Coinstar, known for its machines that can exchange physical coins for cash, has partnered with digital currency exchange CoinMe to let customers buy bitcoin at some of its kiosks.

There are 200 Coinstar kiosks located inside Walmart stores across the United States that will allow customers to buy bitcoin, a Walmart spokesperson said.

Walmart was subject to a cryptocurrency hoax in September when a fake press release was published announcing a partnership between the world’s largest retailer and litecoin. The news had briefly sent prices of the little known cryptocurrency surging.

 

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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