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PayPal pauses stablecoin work amid regulatory scrutiny of crypto

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PayPal pauses stablecoin work amid regulatory scrutiny of crypto

PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) is pausing work on its stablecoin as regulators increase scrutiny of cryptocurrencies and a key partner on the project faces a probe by the New York State Department of Financial Services

PayPal had hoped to debut the stablecoin, which will be backed one for one by the dollar, in the coming weeks, Bloomberg reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.
“We are exploring a stablecoin; if and when we seek to move forward, we will of course, work closely with relevant regulators,” a spokesperson for the payments firm said in an emailed statement.

The cryptocurrency market is going through a turbulent period as the collapse of some of its biggest players, including FTX, has shaken the faith of investors in what was seen as the next big thing in the world of finance.

A string of high-profile bankruptcies has sparked tough global regulatory scrutiny of firms operating in the crypto industry.

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The macroeconomic weakness has also begun to pressure growth at PayPal’s core business as consumer spending, particularly discretionary purchases, comes under pressure due to a cost-of-living crisis, triggered by decades-high inflation.

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France had no prior knowledge of Microsoft’s Mistral AI deal

France had no prior knowledge of Microsoft’s Mistral AI deal

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France had no prior knowledge of Microsoft's Mistral AI deal

 France had no prior knowledge of Microsoft’s partnership with tech startup Mistral AI, a finance ministry official told Reuters, denying suggestions that French lobbying for looser European AI rules had been on behalf of the U.S. tech giant.

Earlier this week, Microsoft (MSFT.O) said it had made a 15-million euro ($16 million) investment in Mistral, and would soon make the Paris-based company’s AI models available via its Azure cloud computing platform.

Following the announcement, a Microsoft spokesperson told Reuters it had invested in Mistral without taking a stake. Later, Microsoft clarified that its investment would convert into equity in Mistral’s next funding round, a common practice among big tech companies investing in AI startups.

Mistral and the French government had previously lobbied for looser regulations under the European Union’s wide-ranging AI Act, ostensibly to avoid over-regulating smaller startups.

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Some EU lawmakers on Tuesday questioned whether Mistral had lobbied on Microsoft’s behalf and the extent of the French government’s knowledge of the partnership.

“That story seems to have been a front for an American-influenced big tech lobby,” Kim van Sparrentak, an EU lawmaker who worked closely on the AI Act, told Reuters. “The Act almost collapsed under the guise of no rules for ‘European champions’, and now look. European regulators have been played.”

However, the French government denied any prior knowledge of the agreement.

“Yesterday, we learned of the technological partnership between Mistral and Microsoft. It’s great news that a young French company has joined Microsoft’s previously exclusive partnership with OpenAI on its Azure platform,” a French finance ministry official told Reuters.

“France, like all other member states, took part in the writing of the AI Act.

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At the time, we were not aware of this partnership project, but it has no specific consequences.” 

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UK Telecoms company has links to Russian oligarchs and sanctioned deals

UK Telecoms company has links to Russian oligarchs and sanctioned deals

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UK Telecoms company has links to Russian oligarchs and sanctioned deals

A UK Telecoms provider has been awarded Russian state contracts from agencies controlled by sanctioned individuals, including an ally of Vladimir Putin, while its Tory-donor backer posts anti-Ukrainian propaganda on social media.

RETN Capital, which provides services across Europe, claims to have limited its exposure to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine and complied with sanctions, but instead its revenue from the country has rocketed since the war began, partly driven by contracts from sanctioned state entities, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

An investigation by the newspaper also found that the co-owner of RETN’s primary institutional investor, Njord Partners, was posting content on X (formerly Twitter) attacking Ukraine and President Zelensky.

One repost stated: “Ukraine has always been a very dodgy place, run by friends of the globalists like Hunter Bider where incredibly shifty s*** goes on”.

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Trolle also reposted: “Why is no one stating the obvious? Zelensky has regime-ending dirt on Biden and other Western leaders who have used Ukraine as their corruption playground for decades.”

Trolle, a former Oaktree Capital executive who donated £20,000 to Conservative MP Priti Patel when she was UK Home Secretary, also posted conspiracy theories on his X account, the Telegraph reported.

Trolle’s partner at Njord Partners, Jakob Kjellberg, is currently the Chairman of RETN.

A repost of anti-Ukrainian propaganda (left,centre) by Arvid Trolle (far right) on X in November 2022


RETN’s wholly owned Russian subsidiary received contracts from state entities which have been sanctioned since the war in Ukraine, according to Interfax-Spark, a database of official contracts.

In December 2022, RETN’s Russian arm won a contract with the Kurchatov Institute, a Russian state-controlled aviation research agency which is sanctioned by the UK and US. Its general director Mikhail Kovalchuk and his brother Yury, a close ally of President Putin, are subject to sanctions by the UK, Canada and Ukraine.

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Two months later RETN was awarded a contract with the Russian State Enterprise Fuel and Energy Complex of St Petersburg – known as GUP TEK. Both GUP TEK and its general director, Ivan Boltenkov, are sanctioned by Ukraine.

RETN’s ties with the Russian state and sanctioned agencies are also apparent in the company’s 2022 financial statements, the newspaper reported. One of the main customers of RETN’s Russian subsidiary is PJSC Rostelecom, which is partially state-owned.

The Russian subsidiary is also a client of the Russian bank Rosbank. Both Rosbank and Rostelecom are sanctioned by the West and Ukraine.

There are also questions over the current ownership of RETN Partners, after its major shareholdings were moved around following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Until January 2021, the largest individual beneficial shareholder of RETN Capital was Polina Maltseva, the daughter of Anatoly Danilitsky, a former Russian diplomat and executive director of the Russian National Reserve Corporation. Danilitsky was also previously the chairman of RETN’s Russian subsidiary.

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The UK High Court once declared Maltseva to be a proxy for her father’s financial interests. She acquired her stake in RETN in 2016, shortly after her father resigned as chairman of its subsidiary. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Maltseva’s stake in RETN was transferred to Anna Tindl, a German lawyer based in Vienna, Austria.

Tindl is also now a director of RETN, but unlike Kjellberg she does not appear on its website.

The slick public face of RETN (left) and the Russian oligarch whose daughter acted as a proxy (right)

Tindl has had partnerships with numerous entities connected with the Russian and Kremlin interests. This includes the Viennese radio station, Radio Ru, which changed it names to Alpha Radio in 2023. The station was founded by Yuri Aleksandrovich Zaitsev, another former Russian diplomat, whom the FBI suspected of espionage and operating as a Kremlin recruiter, while serving in Washington in 2013.

After the invasion of Ukraine, Zaitsev transferred his stake in Radio Ru to a German company, Iallo Gmbh, whose director is Tindl.

Tindl has also been a shareholder of Radio Ru since about the time Zaitsev founded it in 2019.

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Other former shareholders of Radio Ru included, Andrei Zolotov, head of the Vienna bureau of the Putin aligned RIA Novosti.
A spokesman for RETN said: “RETN Capital Ltd is fully in compliance with all relevant international sanctions.

“Our group policies require all the independent local operating subsidiaries to do likewise and the training and software tools to identify any potential sanctioned transactions are provided to them.

“RETN has consistently strived to construct a reliable international network platform that fosters global interconnectivity and supports the development of the global internet. As such, the company’s products revolve around internet access and other communication services which are generally exempted from international sanctions as most Western governments see them as having fundamental importance for democracy, progress and freedom of expression.

“We will raise the alleged transactions which you have brought to our attention, with the management of RETNNet, our Russian subsidiary, and ask them to reconfirm full compliance with our group sanctions policies.”

Njord Partners were asked to comment but did not respond.

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Fintech giant Stripe valued at $65 bln in stock-sale deal for employees

Fintech giant Stripe valued at $65 bln in stock-sale deal for employees

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Fintech giant Stripe valued at $65 bln in stock-sale deal for employees

 Stripe’s valuation surged to $65 billion in a deal that will allow some of its employees to cash out their stock in the company, the payments service provider said on Wednesday.

The so-called “tender offer” could allow Stripe more flexibility with its plans to file for an initial public offering (IPO), which investors and analysts have been anticipating for years.

Stock-based payouts typically comprise a big chunk of the compensation for startup employees, who have no way of converting their shares into cash unless their employer files for an IPO, raises funds in a private round or buys back their shares.

Stripe and some of its investors have agreed to buy some shares of current and former Stripe employees, the company said.

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It did not disclose the names of the investors participating in the round. But the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the deal, said Sequoia Capital and Goldman Sachs’s growth equity fund were involved.

Stripe declined to comment beyond its statement.

The company was valued at $50 billion in its last funding round in 2023 where it raised $6.5 billion. It had then said that it did not need the capital to run its business but would use it to cover a tax bill and to provide liquidity to employees.

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