HSBC Completed $250 Billion in Blockchain-Processed Transactions in 2018

HSBC HSBC. Image Shutterstock.

According to a press release quoted by the Financial Times on Monday, HSBC, one of the largest banking institutions in the world by total assets, reported $250 billion in settled transactions in 2018, using the blockchain technology.

The press release revealed that during the last calendar year, HSBC settled over 3 million blockchain-based foreign exchange transactions. Performed through its blockchain platform, “FX Everywhere,” the bank says it has processed 150,000 payments since the platform launched in February 2018. HSBC completed its first blockchain trade finance transaction in May 2018.

At the time, the financial services group used the technology to issue a letter of credit to agriculture firm Cargill. The letter of credit covered the transportation of produce from Argentina to Malaysia. It was issued by Netherlands financier ING.

FX Everywhere Enhances HSBC

FX Everywhere helps with “orchestrating payments across HSBC’s internal balance sheets,” and the reports suggest that it saw heavy adoption over the last year. The company revealed that settlements were made easier with its proprietary blockchain-based platform. Amongst other things, platform ensured payment confirmations didn’t require additional protocols.

HSBC’s Other Blockchain Efforts

HSBC has been exploring various applications of blockchain technology over the past year. In October, it partnered with Standard Chartered, PNB Paribas and others, to finance a blockchain trade finance platform. Dubbed the “eTrade Connect,” HSBC launched the platform with the aim of improving the efficiency of international trade financing. To achieve this, the platform will cut the time required for the approval of trade loan applications from 36 to 4 hours.

Further Pans for DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology)?

Richard Bibbey, HSBC’s Acting Head of Foreign Exchange and Commodities, stated that the bank “currently hosts thousands of FX transactions.” He added that the integration of blockchain technology has made the process particularly smoother.

He said,

“Following prosperous implementation inside the bank, we are now exploring how this technology could help multinational clients – who also have multiple treasury centers and cross-border supply chains – better manage foreign exchange flows within their organizations.”

Although the release didn’t cite the bank’s total payment volumes for last year, Bibbey revealed to Reuters that DLT’s $250 billion represented a small portion” of it. Nevertheless, this is a significant feat that highlights the benefits that come with the adoption of blockchain in the traditional banking sector.

Crypto Exchange Binance Enters European Markets, Launches Binance Jersey

Major cryptocurrency exchange Binance is expanding to European markets with the launch of a new platform for fiat-to-cryptocurrency trading, according to a press release shared with Cointelegraph on Jan. 16.

According to the release, Binance is launching a new trading platform, dubbed Binance Jersey, designed for fiat-to-crypto trading of the euro (EUR) and British pound (GBP) with Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) within Europe and the United Kingdom.

Trading on Binance Jersey — including such pairs as BTC/GBP, ETH/GBP, BTC/EUR and ETH/EUR — will become available for the exchange’s users after account verification in accordance with the Know Your Customer (KYC) process.

In the press release, Binance highlighted that an expansion into the European markets could provide “freedom from looming Brexit uncertainty where the pound and euro are also in concern.”

In August, major crypto exchange and wallet Coinbase had opened an office in Dublin as reportedly part of a contingency plan for when the U.K. leaves the European Union.

Back in June, Binance had signed a memorandum of understanding with an independent organization that represents Jersey’s digital industries, Digital Jersey.

The collaboration is set to deliver training as part of the organization’s digital skills program with the purpose of promoting the blockchain industry in Jersey, as well as support Binance in discussions about compliance with anti-money laundering regulations.

As part of the expansion of its token offering, Binance opened trading of two pairs using Ripple (XRP) as the quote currency last month.

Prior to that, Binance added Circle’s USD-pegged stablecoin USD Coin as a quote asset for several new trading pairs in its combined Stablecoin Market (USDⓈ), including native exchange token Binance Coin (BNB/USDC), Bitcoin (BTC/USDC), Ethereum (ETH/USDC), Ripple (XRP/USDC), EOS (EOS/USDC) and Stellar (XLM/USDC). In addition, Binance also added a USDC trading pair with fellow stablecoin Tether.

Yesterday, Belarus launched a trading platform that allows users to buy tokenized versions of shares of gold and other traditional assets, reportedly receiving 2,000 registration applications within the first two hours of its launch.

Also yesterday, the ABCC crypto exchange announced a partnership with altcoin Tron in order to list tokens based on Tron’s TRC10 technical standard.

Less Than 1.5 Million People Used dApps in 2018

According to a report from Dapp.com, dApps had about 1.5 million users over the course of 2018, the first full year they were measured. The most active dApp category across platforms was gaming, followed by betting. Of the 1.5 million total users of dApps across platforms, nearly 800,000 were on Ethereum. The Ethereum dApp ecosystem broke down like so:

Of the 1.5 million total users of dApps across platforms, nearly 800,000 were on Ethereum.

Decentralized exchanges accounted for the most users of dApps. Crypto trading is unsurprisingly the first major killer use case for decentralized applications. However, the volume transacted on decentralized exchanges is still dwarfed by volume at centralized exchanges. It’s only a matter of time before a truly usable option emerges which everyday traders and institutions feel comfortable on.

Crypto trading is unsurprisingly the first major killer use case for decentralized applications.

Bets on Tron?

Although Ethereum has the most users and widest variety of dApps, actual usage of Ethereum programs was less in terms of transactions than other platforms like newcomer Tron.

According to the dApp.com report:

TRON is the most ambitious in the dapp field, with a $2 billion Project Genesis launched in the second half of the year. In addition, it spends $100 million on TronArcade to promote its dapp ecosystem.

Tron launched 97 decentralized applications in 2018. Its ecosystem and community are growing at an alarming rate if you’re an Ethereum maximalist. It quickly went from an idea to a top 10 cryptocurrency. This week it was added to OKCoin, one of the largest US exchanges, to be traded against fiat, Bitcoin, and Ethereum.

EOS: The Most Busy dApp Network

The report says that the EOS ecosystem is growing slower than Tron’s. Nevertheless, EOS processes the most transactions. These metrics are interesting – Ethereum has the most choice but least usage in terms of transactions. Tron is the fastest growing but not the most used. Development is slower in EOS, but it sees the most actual usage.

EOS has become the public blockchain with the largest trading volume and number of transaction in less than half a year. Gambling has contributed 97% of the transactions and 75% of the trading volume. Similarly, Tron is also a very active public chain with hundreds of prosperous gambling dapps, with 98% of the transactions coming from gambling.

Gambling Still King

The biggest use of cryptocurrency and dApps remains gambling. This has always been the case. Using cryptocurrencies allows for several features that aren’t possible with fiat gambling. Instant deposits and withdrawals are one, but also universal currency settlement. It’s not necessary to convert between fiat currencies in order to gamble on websites. “Provably fair” is a term that is native to blockchain and Bitcoin gambling houses, and decentralized gambling makes it even more so.

The biggest use of cryptocurrency remains gambling.

The report says that gambling accounted for $3 billion in transactions over the course of 2018 in dApps. While this category only stands to grow as more people and products become associated with the various platforms, other categories like gaming and social media are expected to grow.

Read the full report below.

Less than 1.5 Million Peopl… by on Scribd

Featured image from Shutterstock. Charts by dapp.com.

IBM, Ford Blockchain Pilot Targets Cobalt Supplies From Democratic Republic of Congo

Global technology giant IBM will use its blockchain platform to monitor and trace supplies of cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the company confirmed in a press release on Jan. 15.

IBM, which has already used the in-house IBM Blockchain platform built on the Hyperledger Fabric in multiple use case environments, will now target the rapidly expanding supplies of cobalt needed for electric cars and consumer devices.

The scheme will run in tandem with motor company Ford, South Korean cathode maker LG Chem and China’s Huayou Cobalt. RCS Global, a multinational responsible sourcing company, will also monitor the proceedings.

“With the growing demand for cobalt, this group has come together with clear objectives to illustrate how blockchain can be used for greater assurance around social responsibility in the mining supply chain,” the general manager at IBM’s Global Industrial Products Industry Manish Chawla commented in the release. Chawla added:

“The initial work by these organizations will be used as a precedent for the rest of the industry to be further extended to help ensure transparency around the minerals going into our consumer goods.”

A pilot scheme is already in progress, the participants said, addressing the need to assure supply chain entities their raw materials are responsibly sourced.

The Congo, where the bulk of the world’s cobalt supplies lie, is at present a highly unstable country, with insurgencies and violence common. The blockchain scheme should thus tackle issues regarding child labor or similar exploitation, the press release notes.

“We remain committed to transparency across our global supply chain,” Ford’s vice president of global purchasing and powertrain operations Lisa Drake continued, adding:

“By collaborating with other leading industries in this network, our intent is to use state-of-the-art technology to ensure materials produced for our vehicles will help meet our commitment to protecting human rights and the environment.”

The plans are just one part of IBM’s total blockchain integration. Earlier this month, Cointelegraph reported on how the company’s other project, TradeLens, had likewise seen a further implementation with Saudi Arabia targeting cross-border trade.

Activision Blizzard May Be Accused of Securities Fraud by Investors

Halo suit by Bungie. Image from Shutterstock.

Pomerantz Law Firm has issued a shareholder alert and, it says, is investigating Activision Blizzard and its “officers” for possible securities fraud or other “unlawful business practices.”

Activision Blizzard announced its split from Destiny creators Bungie on January 10. Immediately following the announcement Activision shares plummeted nearly 10%. Investors are concerned over the loss of revenue from the popular title, with Activision confirming it would receive no revenue from the game in 2019.

Destiny developers Bungie have been given back the full rights and responsibilities to Destiny.

Now, according to a press release from law firm Pomerantz:

“Pomerantz LLP is investigating claims on behalf of investors of Activision Blizzard, Inc.”

Little information is given by Pomerantz LLP. The press release says Destiny earned $325 million in its first five days of launch and that “the stock price fell sharply during intraday trading on January 11, 2019.”

Pomerantz LLP does confirm that:

“The investigation concerns whether Activision and certain of its officers and/or directors have engaged in securities fraud or other unlawful business practices.”

A Surprise Break in a 10-Year Agreement with Bungie

Such an investigation, if pursued, could look at how far in advance Activision was aware of the departure from its agreement with Bungie without informing investors. If stocks are sold immediately prior to an announcement it can be considered insider trading.

Investors may be upset. The split was a surprise break in what should have been a ten-year agreement for Activision Blizzard and Bungie. The agreement wasn’t due to expire until 2020.

Though there have been rumors of disagreements between publishers Activision and designers Bungie, a statement issued by Bungie on January 10 thanks Activision for their partnership and says:

“With Activision, we created something special. To date, Destiny has delivered a combination of over 50 million games and expansions to players all around the world.”

Investigations of this nature are common and can often disappear without a lawsuit.

Pomerantz says it has recently been involved with a securities class action settlement on behalf of Petrobras investors recovering a reported near $3 billion. It’s lead counsel in an action against Barclays Bank PLC and is also pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of Google parent Alphabet shareholders. All as per the Pomerantz LLP website.

Elsewhere Elon Musk is having a bad week as his SpaceX program commences layoffs.

Bitcoin Hovers Just Above $3,600 as Crypto Markets See Another Slump

Tuesday, Jan. 15 — following a brief period of recovery yesterday, all of the top 20 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization are falling again. The only exception to this are two stablecoins Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC), which are currently in the green.

Market visualization from Coin360

As of press time, Bitcoin (BTC) is down 2.34 percent on the day, to trade at $3,615. The leading cryptocurrency started the day above the psychological threshold of $3,700, while on the weekly chart the highest price point was registered on Jan. 9 at $4,107.

Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Price Index

The second largest cryptocurrency by market cap, Ripple (XRP) has lost almost 3 percent of its value over the last 24 hours, currently trading at around $0.32. XRP did not experience significant price fluctuations today, but it is significantly down from the intraweek high of $0.38 seen on Jan. 9.

Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Price Index

Ethereum (ETH) — which is currently ranked the third largest crypto by market cap — is suffering a slump, having lost around 7.5 percent over the last 24 hours. At press time, the altcoin is trading at around $119.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier, Ethereum’s much-anticipated Constantinople upgrade has been delayed until at least the next week, following the discovery of a critical security vulnerability that it could unexpectedly introduce to the network.

Ethereum 7-day price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Price Index

All of the other top 20 cryptocurrencies are also firmly in the red, displaying dips ranging from two to over 7 percent. The sole exception are stablecoins USDT and USDC, which are up by 0.06 and 0.45 percent respectively, according to CoinMarketCap data.

The total crypto market capitalization is around $120.5 billion at press time, down from its intra-week high of $138.6 billion.

Total market capitalization 7-day chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

A Jan. 14 report by research firm Diar has shown that cryptocurrency exchanges have closed 2018 with “record transacting volumes.” Both the number of trades and the trade volume have purportedly significantly increased on major crypto exchanges in 2018, compared to 2017 figures.

Pharma Stocks Decline as House Democrats Investigate Drug Prices

Stock prices of twelve of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the USA have fallen sharply after the commencement of a Congressional investigation into prescription drug pricing practices. In a statement released yesterday, it was revealed that the House Oversight Committee chaired by Senator Elijah Cummings (D-Md) sent letters requesting information about their pricing strategies to AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Teva Pharmaceuticals as part of an inquiry into alleged price profiteering.

Political Hot Button

According to information from the committee, the information requests included inquiries about three drugs respectively from AbbVie and Sanofi, two drugs respectively from Amgen, Pfizer and Novo Nordisk, and one drug each from AstraZeneca, Celegne, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Mallinckrodt and Teva.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that something needs to be done to reduce prescription prices which are higher in the USA than pretty much anywhere else in the world.

President Donald Trump’s administration has introduced a number of reform proposals to lower price burdens for consumers – $333.4 billion in 2017 – including changes to Medicare Part B and Part D. House Democrats on their part have also made efforts to achieve price reductions including most recently a trio of bills sponsored last week by Senator Cummings, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Ca).

An excerpt from the committee’s statement reads as follows:

For years, drug companies have been aggressively increasing prices on existing drugs and setting higher launch prices for new drugs while recording windfall profits. The goals of this investigation are to determine why drug companies are increasing prices so dramatically, how drug companies are using the proceeds, and what steps can be taken to reduce prescription drug prices.

Pharma Stock Prices Fall Following Announcement

In the wake of the news of the information requests sent to the 12 companies, their stock prices recorded sharp declines, led by AstraZeneca which fell 7.69 percent from $37 to $35.22 in a few hours of trading yesterday.

AstaZeneca stock dipped 7.69% on the news. Chart from Tradingview.

Pfizer stocks also dipped 2.78 percent on the news, falling from $42.80 to $42.36.

Pfizer stocks also dipped 2.78%. Chart from Tradingview.

Of the rest, Johnson & Johnson was the smallest loser, recording a price dip of 0.29 percent from $129.50 to $128.31.

Johnson & Johnson stock only dropped 0.29%. Chart from Tradingview.

Belarus Launches Trading Platform Enabling Customers to Buy Tokenized Securities

Belarus has launched a trading platform that enables customers to buy tokenized versions of shares, gold and other traditional assets, Reuters reported Jan. 15.

The project is reportedly backed by two companies, Larnabel Ventures and VP Capital. According to Reuters, the government of Belarus has not yet commented on the launch of the platform, but it was covered by the state news agency BelTa.

The platform will allow traders to buy shares, precious metals, foreign exchange and other traditional assets from Belarus, as well as from other countries, with cryptocurrencies.

Since its launch, the platform has reportedly issued 150 different types of tokens, with each corresponding to a traditional financial instrument. The company expects to eventually grow this number to 10,000.

According to the Reuters’ article, the government of Belarus has exempted transactions with tokenized securities from taxation until 2023. However, when registering on the new platform, traders will have to pass an Anti-Money Laundering (AML) verification procedure.

Reuters reported that the platform received 2,000 registration applications within the first two hours from launch.

In November 2018, Belarus High-Technologies Park, a national special economic zone dedicated to the IT industry, established the rules for the operation of the cryptocurrency market in the country.

Earlier in May, the country’s Minister of Communications and Informatization Sergey Popkov said that digital technologies are a top priority for Belarus due to their ability to transform the economy, public administration and social services.

On Jan. 3, 2019, Estonian trading platform DX Exchange announced a product similar to the one that was launched by Belarus. It reportedly allows cryptocurrency users to purchase tokens that are backed by stocks of various major companies, including Google, Facebook and Amazon.

France’s Largest Bank BNP Paribas Loses $80 Million Due to Trader’s Pre-Vacation Snafu

BNP Paribas. Image from Shutterstock.

According to multiple sources, BNP SA, known by many as the largest bank in France, reportedly made a loss of $80 million in derivative trades connected to the United States.

The sources confirmed that Antoine Lours, the Head of U.S index trading at BNP, is yet to return to his position at the bank. Lours has been away on vacation since Christmas when he initiated trades on the S&P 500 Index.

Increasing tensions between the United States and China over tariffs and trade disputes caused U.S stock prices to slump over the holiday. Although the stocks did regain their ground, the high volatility concerned many traders and investors, causing massive stock selloffs.

U.S. Trading Desk Shutdown

It hasn’t been the perfect start of 2019 for BNP Paribas. In addition to the $80 million lost over trades gone awry, the bank will close down its U.S. commodities derivatives desk. The commodities division consisted of 16 traders who traded commodities such as agricultural products, metals, and energy. The decision to close is in line with an earlier decision made by the bank to cease financing oil sands and shale projects.

According to an unnamed source, the decision indicates a series of adjustments made by the bank, aiming at protecting its profitability.
Jean Pierre Lambert, Analyst at London-based Keffe, Bruyette & Woods, said:

“The bank seems to be adopting enhanced discipline on costs and profitability at its markets activities.”

Opera Trading Desk

The bank will also be shutting down Opera Trading Capital, its proprietary trading division. The division, which makes risky bets with BNP’s capital, is being shut down after last year’s market volatility saw it struggle to make profits. The business is reportedly funded with over $600 million. The bank is reportedly closing it so its resources can be reallocated to client-focused businesses.

Major Banks Call Grim Results

BNP’s key trading business saw a 10% drop in revenue over three-quarters of 2018, while Citigroup Inc. also reported a 21% drop in trading fixed income, commodities and currency on Monday. JPMorgan Chase &Co. followed on Tuesday, claiming that its trading business was greatly affected by “challenging market conditions.”

ABCC Exchange Partners With Tron to Become First Platform to List TRC10 Tokens

ABCC cryptocurrency exchange has partnered with the ninth largest cryptocurrency Tron (TRX), according to a tweet posted Jan. 15. Tron’s founder and CEO Justin Sun subsequently confirmed the news on Twitter.

As per the announcement, the partnership has made ABCC the first crypto exchange to list tokens based on Tron’s TRC10 technical standard.

The announcement was made a few days after the exchange first revealed that its was in the process of adding support for tokens based on both the TRC10 and TRC20 standards.

According to Tron’s guide for developers, TRC10 is a technical standard for tokens that are supported by the crytpocurrency’s native blockchain without the deployment of the Tron Virtual Machine (TVM).

On the other hand, TRC‌20 is a technical standard used for smart contracts that implement tokens with the TVM. It is also fully compatible with Ethereum’s (ETH) ERC‌-20 standard tokens.

In December 2018, Tron’s CEO Justin Sun said that the company will build a fund to rescue Ethereum and EOS developers from what he called the collapse of their respective platforms.

More recently, former chief strategy officer of BitTorrent argued that Tron will be unable to handle the necessary transaction volume needed to tokenize the torrent client. Having acquired BitTorrent in July 2018, Tron used its own protocol to launch a cryptocurrency token for the platform dubbed “BTT” in early January this year.

As of press time, Tron’s native token TRX is ranked as the ninth largest cryptocurrency by market cap, which is at around $1.63 billion. The coin is trading at around $0.03, down more than 5 percent on the day, according to data from CoinMarketCap.