Facebook’s Libra currency under fire

Libra has raised eyebrows among the world’s financial regulators, including the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 July 2019

Facebook’s Libra currency under fire

  • Libra will be co-managed by 100 partner firms, including Facebook’s newly-minted financial services division Calibra
  • Libra, which is widely regarded as a challenger to dominant global player Bitcoin, is expected to launch in the first half of 2020

LONDON: Facebook’s planned virtual unit Libra, already under heavy attack from US President Donald Trump and global regulators, faces skepticism among the wider cryptocurrency community as well.
One theme — besides Brexit — dominated discussion among the movers and shakers from London’s financial technology or FinTech industry as gathered for their annual get-together: the future of virtual currencies.
“Can I just ask you to raise your hand if you would not be willing to use Libra?” asked the moderator at an event at London’s recent ‘FinTech Week’.
In the room, filled with about 100 experts and media who closely track the sector, about two-thirds of participants raised their hand to express distrust at the upstart currency.
Helen Disney, founder and boss of Unblocked Events, which promotes the blockchain technology that powers many cryptocurrencies, acknowledged growing doubts over who exactly would oversee and regulate Libra’s operation.
People are “concerned about how the governance... would work,” Disney told AFP.
“The cryptocurrency community is very libertarian in thinking,” its “about giving power to the people, democratization of finance, keeping away from big banks and companies who control (the) economy,” she said
Last week’s gathering came one month after Facebook announced to the world its plans for the virtual currency.
Libra, which is widely regarded as a challenger to dominant global player Bitcoin, is expected to launch in the first half of 2020.
Whereas Bitcoin is decentralized, Libra will be co-managed by 100 partner firms, including Facebook’s newly-minted financial services division Calibra.
The companies behind Libra — which will be backed with a basket of real-world currencies — include payment giants Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, as well as taxi-hailing services Lyft and Uber.
To access Libra on smartphones, users will go through a virtual wallet that will also be named Calibra.
While Facebook boasts an enormous customer base dotted across the globe that should facilitate Libra’s uptake, it firm also been plagued by privacy concerns that could make users hesitate.
“Can’t wait for a cryptocurrency with the ethics of Uber, the censorship resistance of Paypal, and the centralization of Visa, all tied together under the proven privacy of Facebook,” said Sarah Jamie Lewis, head of non-profit research organization Open Privacy.
Libra has meanwhile raised eyebrows among the world’s financial regulators, including the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve.
But Disney believes that Libra will finally force regulators to present clear regulation guidelines, as demanded by the cryptocurrency community itself.
“We have been waiting for a long time for a clearer signal (regarding) the regulation of cryptocurrencies and digital assets,” she said.
But James Bennett, head of cryptocurrency research firm Bitassist, argues that Libra should not be seen in the same light as Bitcoin.
“In the long run, people may realize that Libra is not a cryptocurrency,” Bennett said at the FinTech Week event.
“A true cryptocurrency should be resistant to attacks by all parties, from sovereign states to global corporations,” he said, adding that “cryptocurrency is a type of money used to transfer value over the Internet that cannot be stopped, confiscated or destroyed by any single entity.”
Trump has meanwhile unleashed a vicious attack on virtual currencies, slamming them for their alleged shadowy nature and arguing that Libra had no standing nor dependability — unlike the dollar.
“I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air,” Trump tweeted Thursday.


Popeyes flexes its muscles in China as KFC feels the heat

Updated 57 min 11 sec ago

Popeyes flexes its muscles in China as KFC feels the heat

  • Popeyes signed a lease in Shanghai for its first store in China on Monday

SHANGHAI: US fried chicken chain Popeyes wants to become the top chicken brand in China, the chief executive of its parent company said on Tuesday, as it prepares to take on KFC, the leading player in the world’s most populous market.

Popeyes signed a lease in Shanghai for its first store in China on Monday, which is expected to open next year.

The company outlined plans in July to build 1,500 restaurants in China in the coming decade, becoming the last of Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International Inc’s main brands to enter the country.

By contrast, Yum China’s KFC has about 6,300 stores. Yum has said that it is acutely aware there is more opportunity to expand in China, noting that while it was in 1,300 Chinese cities, there are still as many as 800 cities without a KFC store.

Popeyes’ July plan was “just really to put a framework on the short-term potential business,” Jose Cil, RBI’s CEO said in an interview in Shanghai.

“I think we can be the No. 1 chicken brand here in China and all around Asia,” he said, adding that consumers in the region were looking for options. He dismissed concerns that a slowing China economy and trade tensions had dimmed prospects for growth in the long term.

Cil’s remarks comes as the Cajun-inspired fast food chicken chain experiences a surge in popularity in the US after a newly launched fried chicken sandwich went viral on social media.

Demand was such that Popeyes had to stop taking orders after only two weeks before relaunching it this month.

The sandwich will also be offered in China, he said.

Cil noted that RBI’s other two main brands had seen rapid growth in China.

Burger King has expanded to around 1,100 stores in China from less than 100 in 2012. “We think we’ll keep growing at a steady pace,” Cil said.

And Tim Hortons, its Canadian coffee chain, just opened its 28th store in China after launching there in February.

“We are preparing ourselves to be able to accelerate growth in the coming years,” Cil said of
the brand.