Category Archives: sweden

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Nordic-Baltic Region Scoops up $6.3B of Europe’s Fintech Business

According to a MagnaCarta, Fintech Mundi and Mastercard report, fintech companies are continuing to thrive in Scandinavia and also in the Baltic regions, writes Fintech Schweiz Digital Finance News.

They are reported to have created half of the industries main players in Europe to date and those firms seeking fintech partnerships is far higher than the overall 2017 European average in these regions.

At the forefront of these successes are Swedish online payment platforms Klarna and iZettle and Estonian money transfer program TransferWise which has now relocated to the UK. These three companies are reputed to have a cumulative worth of USD 6.3 billion.

Susanne Hannestead CEO of Fintech Mundi and co-author of the research explains:

“The Nordic and Baltic markets already have an incredible track record of building fintech companies having created regional successes that have gone on to become global winners, like Spotify and Zwipe.”

Its reported that there are over 500 fintech companies across the Baltic and in Scandinavia and banks are showing increased interest seeing that costing and effectiveness can be a factor of collaboration in this financial sector.

Mastercard has been a major driver of fintech in the region having recently launched its Lighthouse Development Program in partnership with NFT Ventures in the region. The project has been set up in order to trawl the sector for prospective startups and develop new technologies.

Mats Taraldsson, the head of digital business development and fintech partnerships of Mastercard Nordics and Baltics, claims that collaboration is the key to success and finding the right fintech and startup mix to deliver customer needs:

“…working together with startups and fintech is essential to meet the future needs of consumers, merchants, and governments. We have been committed to fintechs for many years, fostering partnerships with pioneers who have grown into global brands.”

The Nordic Fintech Disruptors Report 2018 does highlight some problems though, regardless of the regions capturing the larger chunk of Europe’s fintech business, suggesting that the region still lacks regulation and supervision, particularly at local levels. In fact, 45% of respondents agreed that Nordic and Baltic fintech companies needed greater support in this area. Hannestad, also co-author of the research explained:

“A more joined-up approach to fintech, and the factors that influence successful innovation between the markets governments and regulators, however, would create new opportunities for growth and productivity and ensure the region is the best place in Europe to build the next generation of fintech giants.”

 

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Seized Crypto Millions Auctioned by German Prosecutors

Bavarian prosecutors are to auction off seized cryptocurrency worth nearly USD 14 million, estimated to be the highest such sale in German history, reports Cointelegraph.

The sale, originally reported in local news source Der Tagesspeigel on 28 May, involves 1,312 Bitcoins (BTC) and other digital currencies including 1,399 Bitcoin Cash, 1312 Bitcoin Gold, and 220 Ethereum.

The funds were confiscated as part of an investigation into online platform LuL.to. It is estimated that at least 30,000 people had used the platform before the website was shut down and the site operators were arrested last June by officers from the Bayern Central Cybercrime Office, according to Der Tagesspeigel.

German prosecutors stated that “since all cryptocurrencies are exposed to the risk of high price fluctuations or even total loss, the Bayern Central Cybercrime Office ordered an emergency sale”.

The seized cryptocurrencies were reportedly sold over the course of two months in 1,600 separate transactions with the selloff beginning in late February when the price of Bitcoin had plummeted from almost USD 20,00 to around USD 11,400. During the sale, the price dipped again to below USD 7,000 and then rose back to USD 9,000. With Bitcoin currently at around USD 7,400 at time of press, it seems as though the Bavarian police have timed it well, unless Bitcoin rebounds again in the future, suggests Fortune.

The auctioning of crypto assets seized by enforcement authorities is not unusual. In January this year, the US Marshals Service raised over USD 40 mln from the auction of BTC 3,812 seized during the course of civil and criminal proceedings in January. Other countries such as Sweden and Ukraine began auctioning seized Bitcoin last year, and earlier this year about BTC 2,000 was confiscated by the Finnish government after assets were seized from blockchain market Valhalla.

One of the most notable in terms of size was a seizure by Bulgarian police last year estimated to be enough to pay off one-fifth of Bulgaria’s national debt; a sum that would be worth approximately USD 1.5 billion at today’s Bitcoin price.

 

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Bank of England Governor Openly Considers a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, spoke at the Riksbank Anniversary conference on Friday, putting forward an open-minded stance about the possibility of a central bank digital currency (CBDC).

Potential CBD for England

As reported by Bloomberg, while Carney appeared open to the idea, he also pointed to several issues that prevented him from offering his full support for a CBDC. Specifically, Carney stressed his view that cryptocurrencies are not a true equivalent of money, and that should a CBDC be adopted, it will not be capable of happening successfully in the near future.

During his speech, Carney went on to explain that the Bank of England is looking to boost diversity within the institution by engaging with people who not only come from a mainstream economic background. “The future of central banking may involve fewer central bankers, ” he said, indicating perhaps a future direction more compatible with the cryptocurrency field.

Sweden’s central bank Riksbank hosted the conference. Risbank is currently researching the practicality of implementing an e-krona, a CBDC for Sweden, with results from the inquiry scheduled to be published in 2019.

Carney and Crypto

The Bank of England issued a working paper earlier this month, detailing results of an extended inquiry into the possible financial risks and stability issues associated with CBDC. The report indicated that there was no probable cause to assume adopting a CBDC would create issues surrounding private credit, or total liquidity provision to the economy.

Carney has not held back on his personal, skeptical view of cryptocurrencies in the past. In February this year, he stated ”[cryptocurrency] has pretty much failed thus far on… the traditional aspects of money. It is not a store of value because it is all over the map. Nobody uses it as a medium of exchange.”

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Norway Joins Central Bank Crypto Queue

An official document has been released by Norway’s Central bank (Norge bank) announcing intentions of launching its own cryptocurrency, according to Cointelegraph.

This notice of intent by Norway’s State bank is very much in keeping with current trends showing increasing numbers of central banks looking into the viability of creating national cryptocurrencies. As Bitcoin News illustrated, the adoption of cryptocurrency globally by central banks is still in its infancy but is growing.

The 55-page document, released by the Norge Bank’s working group, referred to this trend, citing the advance of technology moving financial institutions beyond cash money. Norges Bank Governor Øystein Olsen wrote:

“Technological advances have brought this issue to the fore. A decline in cash usage has prompted us to think about whether at some future date a number of new attributes that are important for ensuring an efficient and robust payment system [should be taken into consideration].”

However, the bank is quick to point out that a central bank digital currency (CBDC) wouldn’t interfere with customers normal banking requirements, as long as demand continues to exist for cash. The working group, which is currently only in its initial stages, stated:

“It is too early to conclude whether Norge Bank should take the initiative in introducing a CBDC. The impacts of a CBDC – and the socio-economic cost-benefit analysis – will depend on the specific design. The design, in turn, will depend on the purpose of introducing a CBDC.”

As NewsBTC points out, while there is no specific law telling Scandinavian banks how to view cryptocurrency, there is anti-money laundering legislation already in place. These laws demand that those offering financial services must follow KYC practices.

Morgan Stanley strategist Sheena Shah released a report on central bank cryptocurrencies this month, focusing on the current situation regarding state adoption of cryptocurrencies globally. Shah explained that although many central banks are considering their own cryptocurrencies, the focus is simply financial stability.

Shah suggests that were emerging cryptocurrencies to be adopted, they would not be Bitcoin or any other public blockchain networks. She believes that a 100% digital system might enable banks to push interest rates into negative territory, a tactic used by banks in the past to spur the global economy.

Another Scandinavian central bank, Sweden’s Riksbank, is currently considering its own cryptocurrency, an e-krona, with the same motivations as its Norwegian neighbor having observed cash use on the decline across the country.

 

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Europe: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 4th to 10th May 2018

Europe

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

Germany

TokenPay acquires German bank: TokenPay, a decentralized self-verifying payment platform has recently announced that it has acquired a sizeable stake in the Berlin-based German Bank WEG. In the beginning, it was established that Litecoin and TokenPay were partnering up for this move and Derek Capo, the founder of TokenPay had said to Charlie Lee, the founder of Litecoin:

“We are buying 9.9% of a bank in Munich with option to buy 90%. They have a whole ecosystem and plan in place.”

The move isn’t a surprise since acquiring banks was listed as an eventual end in the official whitepaper of the platform.

France

Conflicting tax policies cause confusion: France is continuing its love-hate relationship with cryptocurrencies with the latest move seeing cryptocurrencies being reclassified as “moveable property” rather than currency and thus the tax rate has come down from 45% to 19%.

The defence lawyer of the tax department argued that “Bitcoin has no other purpose than that of means of payment” but the ruling came in the favor of cryptocurrencies. Due to the rapid change in government dealing with crypto profits, there is a considerable confusion in the market and government circles regarding what rule should be followed.

Sweden

Company takes Bitcoin mining to the stratosphere: Swedish company Miner One has taken cryptocurrency mining literally a notch above as it launched a Bitcoin mining rig into the atmosphere over 100,000 feet (35,000 meters) above the Earth according to a blog post from the company.

The mining rig uses a hydrogen balloon with capsule assembly underneath containing an ASIC and a Raspberry Pi microcomputer capable of processing data at 35 km above land. The capsule also contains instruments for navigation, tracking and other necessary material to protect the rig from extreme temperatures. It mines at a rate of 330 megahashes per second.

The project is a brainchild of Swedish CEO Pranas Slusnys. He said:

“The goal of Space Miner One is to symbolically express our belief that bitcoin and cryptocurrency, in general, is about the future and the revolutionary technology at its heart: so-called blockchain technology. And with this new technology, the sky’s the limit.”

United Kingdom

Richard Branson says Bitcoin scams in his name a worrying trend: Latest Bitcoin scams include using the name and image of popular British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson in fake schemes and they are becoming quite successful according to a recent blog post from the Virgin Group’s website.

Branson wrote:

“Some of the most regular and worrying fake stories currently spreading online are false endorsements of Bitcoin trading schemes. While I have often commented on the potential benefits of genuine Bitcoin developments, I absolutely do not endorse these fake Bitcoin stories.”

The scams usually involve Richard Branson endorsing a cryptocurrency or a product.

UK financial think tank calls Bitcoin a fad: UK’s financial think tank Evidence-based Management’s director Martin Walker has called Bitcoin a “fad” in an address to the British Parliament. The words were in stark contrast to the other representatives called for testimony including blockchain companies EverLedger and Ripple, researchers from local universities and other professionals, most of whom spoke at length about the potential benefits of the industry including saving the banks millions of dollars per annum.

Walker continued and said to a room full of British MPs that the world-renowned tech behind cryptocurrencies was nothing but “magic wand, pixie dust things” and the blockchain was nothing but a distraction from getting the basics of banking right.

Telegram cancels ICO amid ever-increasing restrictions: What was potentially the biggest ICO in history is now history as Telegram has officially closed its much-publicized ICO, according to a report by The Independent. The tightening of ICO regulation around the world including the US and the UK resulted in this move and will see potentially billions of dollars return to the investors.

Investors were frustrated with this move and called it a blow for the future of cryptocurrencies.

Portugal

Crypto regulations planned: The Portuguese government is meeting to debate cryptocurrency regulations in the coming weeks according to a local news outlet Jornal de Negocios. The government is all set to discuss possible sanctions in addition to supply and distribution of cryptocurrencies in the market.

But, there could be good news as the government officials were quoted saying that they would “accommodate the innovation to the benefit of consumers, and to even promote competition“.

Switzerland

Switzerland aiming to become the top blockchain nation: Switzerland is increasingly becoming the destination of choice for all cryptocurrencies and ICOs in the world. Out of six of the world’s largest ICOs last year alone, four took place in Switzerland according to a report by the Swiss Financial watchdog Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

Most of the world’s ICOs are moving to Gibraltar, Malta and Switzerland. Small towns with just a few thousand people living are becoming famous as centres of this new revolution. Zug, a small town of 120,000 people has seen the entry of over 200 blockchain companies on its own. It was one of the first towns to install Bitcoin ATMs in 2016.

Switzerland’s openness to new ideas and innovations is a key factor in the country becoming the number one destination for ICOs and blockchain companies.

 

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Crypto Miners Look to Norway and Sweden for Energy Savings

Cryptocurrency miners are reportedly looking to move their operations to Norway and Sweden, with hydroelectricity and other renewables from more developed European countries allowing for cheaper electricity tariff’s beneficial to profits as electricity is the main overhead. Iceland has been a popular location due to the low temperatures which naturally dissipate the heat that is generated.

What is mining?

Cryptocurrency mining consists of two main processes. Verifying and adding transactions to a block in a blockchain, and solving highly complex cryptographic puzzles with a ‘Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm. In a typical PoW blockchain such as Bitcoin, the first of competing hardware to find the solution is rewarded with cryptocurrency. As more miners join the network, growing computational power results in an increasing solving difficulty, requiring more powerful, energy-intensive hardware to mine currencies.

Problems associated with large-scale IT solutions

As with any large IT solution, mining can be energy intensive and has large power requirements. The local power grid needs to be able to cope with the peaks and troughs of the total energy draw in the area. Local powerline infrastructure also needs to be able to cope with heavy loads of power on the lines.

Vast amounts of heat are generated due to resistance in current computer components as they are made of copper. In order to improve the shelf life of the components, cooling is required. Cooling will come in the form of fans or air conditioning, which again requires more power.

With general power needs growing for an expanding population, there is a need to continue to develop more efficient production and distribution methods. Bitcoin mining is an expanding area as well. As per Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, Bitcoin’s current estimated energy consumption is already at 60.24 TWh.

Green power solutions for miners

Currently, China contributes to around 70% of cryptocurrency mining due to its relatively cheap electricity. Growing pollution concerns from coal-fired power have resulted in legislation being introduced to restrict mining in cities such as Beijing. This has led to miners seeking out new locations to set up operations.

In Norway, hydropower contributes to more than 99% of electricity, while Sweden uses a combination of hydropower/nuclear at a 40/40 split.

Both Norway and Sweden have encouraged their countries to welcome cryptocurrency mining. It makes commercial sense, as energy providers will be attracted to the consistent power draw of mining operations that tend to run round the clock. Cheaper renewable power, cooler climates that aid cooling requirements and friendlier crypto legislation in these countries are proving enticing to mining companies.

Future power requirements

If the growth in cryptocurrency energy consumption continues at current rates, it will quickly become unsustainable. Credit Suisse estimates that if Bitcoin’s price were to reach USD 50,000, we would see an increase in the electricity consumption by ten times. With a wider adoption of blockchain among our other growing energy requirements, we will need to take steps towards greener energy solutions.

Rising mining power requirements could stimulate more growth in renewables as more portable variations are quicker to set up compared with nuclear alternatives. Localized renewable power solutions also require less infrastructure compared with nuclear, which often needs to be situated near a water source.

The power requirements of mining have the ability to have a knock-on effect on other markets. Higher demand for renewables will create more jobs and competitive markets lead to innovation.

 

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Video: Life On Bitcoin Newlywed Couple Hits The Road

Video: Life On Bitcoin Newlywed Couple Hits The Road:

Beccy and Austin Craig (@LifeOnBitcoin) have been filming their lives for the first three months of their marriage while they live on Bitcoin for a documentary.  Provo Utah’s KSL5 TV news reporter Jed Boal (@JedBoal) interviews them.  Excerpts:

“The Craigs will test the principal of currency when they begin roadtripping across the county Saturday. ”I am nervous about food,’ Beccy said. ‘As soon as we leave Utah County, we are starting over, we don’t have food.’”

“During their travel, the Craigs expect to discover more businesses using Bitcoin, and they’ll continue to negotiate with those that don’t. When they return home, the Craigs plan to end their experiment of living only on bitcoins.  ’I am super excited to go back to good old American currency, just for its convenience,’ Beccy said. But, the Craigs said they believe in Bitcoin and plan to make it part of their financial future.”

 – http://bit.ly/GKMxqr
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