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Libra crypto won’t launch until regulatory concerns are addressed, says Facebook

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Facebook Inc said on Monday it would not proceed with the launch of its Libra cryptocurrency until regulatory concerns are addressed, as the US Treasury secretary took the unusual step of saying he had serious concerns it could be used for illicit activity.

David Marcus, who oversees Facebook’s blockchain efforts, planned to tell Congress that Libra is not being built to compete with traditional currencies or interfere with monetary policy.

“The Libra Association, which will manage the (Libra) Reserve, has no intention of competing with any sovereign currencies or entering the monetary policy arena,” Marcus was due to say on Tuesday, according to prepared testimony released by the Senate Banking Committee. “Monetary policy is properly the province of central banks.”

“Facebook will not offer the Libra digital currency until we have fully addressed regulatory concerns and received appropriate approvals,” he said.

Speaking with reporters, Mnuchin said he was not comfortable with Libra currently, particularly in guarding against money laundering and other illicit use. “They’re going to have to convince us of very high standards before they have access to the US financial system,” he said.

Mnuchin is the latest senior US regulator to air concerns with the product, days after Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell expressed similar worries about the digital currency could be misused.

“These cryptocurrencies have been dominated by illicit activity and speculation,” said Mnuchin.

In his prepared testimony, Marcus said the Libra Association, the companies behind the Facebook-led cryptocurrency, planned to register as a money services business with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and fully expected to comply with anti-money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act rules.

Since announcing the Libra project last month, Facebook has faced a torrent of criticism and skepticism from policymakers across the world who cite concerns over data security, money laundering and consumer protections.

Marcus was scheduled to testify on Tuesday and Wednesday before congressional committees overseeing financial issues and several members have suggested the product be barred.

Addressing some of those concerns, Marcus said in his prepared testimony that partners providing financial services with Libra will be required to comply with anti-money laundering rules. The Libra Association will not hold personal data of users beyond basic transaction information, and personal information provided to Calibra, the digital wallet Facebook is developing to hold Libra, will not be shared with the social media company and cannot be used for targeting ads.

Marcus added that he expected the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information commissioner to be Libra’s privacy regulator because the Libra Association is headquartered in Geneva. The association is also in preliminary talks with the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority on “an appropriate regulatory framework.”

While promising Libra will adhere to relevant laws and regulations, Marcus aimed to sell lawmakers on the product’s merits as well, arguing the United States should not stifle such innovation.

“I am proud that Facebook has initiated this effort here in the United States,” his testimony said. “I believe that if America does not lead innovation in the digital currency and payments area, others will. If we fail to act, we could soon see a digital currency controlled by others whose values are dramatically different.”

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Oyo buys Las Vegas Hooters Hotel in its first US purchase

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In what is its first property purchase in U.S., Soft Bank-backed Oyo Hotels and Homes, has bought the Hooters Casino Hotel Las Vegas.

While, Oyo did not divulge the financial terms of the transaction, a person close to the development said Oyo and Highgate, an American real estate investment and hospitality management company, are together putting in $135 million for the asset.

Hooters Casino Hotel will now be rebranded and designed as Oyo Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, the company said in a statement. It provides 657 rooms across 19 floors and a 35,000 square-foot casino.

Highgate will assume management of the hotel, and Paragon Gaming will continue to operate the casino, Oyo said.

“We believe Las Vegas is an exciting city in which to invest as the market continues to evolve with projects such as the new Las Vegas Raiders NFL stadium and the $1 billion expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. As we continue to focus on bringing to life our popular concept of ‘comfort design’ and delivering chic hospitality experiences, we are increasingly exploring new ways to connect with our customers, from millennials, to young executives and families, in every city we enter,” said Abhinav Sinha, chief operating officer and OYO Hotels and Homes USA.

Earlier in June, Oyo had announced its plan to invest $300 million in the U.S. Currently, there it has over 112 Oyo Hotels in more than 60 cities and 21 states in the U.S.

“With our newest hotel in Las Vegas, we are excited to cater to a completely different audience segment,” said Ritesh Agarwal, founder and chief executive, OYO Hotels and Homes.

Founded in 2013, OYO Hotels & Homes is the world’s third-largest chain of hotels, homes, managed living and workspaces. The portfolio combines fully operated real estate comprising of more than 23,000 hotels and 125,000 vacation homes. Over the years, it has attracted an array of investors including the likes of Airbnb, SoftBank Vision Fund, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Greenoaks Capital, Sequoia Capital India, and Hero Enterprise.

Oyo has been on an acquisition spree. In July, it confirmed its acquisition of Innov8, a co-working spaces provider, highlighting the company’s increasing focus on the fast-growing segment. While Oyo did not disclose financial details of the Innov8 acquisition, it is pegged to be around $30 million, according to a TechCrunch report.

In May, Oyo said it has agreed to acquire Amsterdam-based @Leisure Group, from Axel Springer, a media and technology company, for an undisclosed amount. @Leisure is a vacation rental company in Europe, which manages holiday homes, holiday parks, and holiday apartments. The transaction was pegged around $416 million, according to several media reports.

Last year, it acquired Mumbai-based Weddingz.in, an online marketplace for wedding venues, and AblePlus Solutions Pvt. Ltd, an Internet of Things (IoT) technology company.

It claims to have a balance sheet of about $1.5 billion. OYO has raised nearly $1.7 billion in funding over 12 rounds.

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Donald Trump does not want to do business with China’s Huawei

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U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said he did not want the United States to do business with China’s Huawei even as the administration weighs whether to extend a grace period for the company.

Reuters and other media outlets reported on Friday that the U.S. Commerce Department is expected to extend a reprieve given to Huawei Technologies Co Ltd that permits the Chinese firm to buy supplies from U.S. companies so that it can service existing customers.

The “temporary general license” will be extended for Huawei for 90 days, Reuters reported, citing two sources familiar with the situation.

On Sunday, Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One in New Jersey that he did not want to do business with Huawei for national security reasons.

“At this moment it looks much more like we’re not going to do business,” Trump said. “I don’t want to do business at all because it is a national security threat and I really believe that the media has covered it a little bit differently than that.”

He said there were small parts of Huawei’s business that could be exempted from a broader ban, but that it would be “very complicated.” He did not say whether his administration would extend the “temporary general license.”

Speaking earlier on Sunday, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow said the Commerce department would extend the Huawei licensing process for three months as a gesture of “good faith” amid broader trade negotiations with China.

“We’re giving a break to our own companies for three months,” Kudlow said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. 

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Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani grooms the heirs to his $50 billion fortune

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Among Mumbai’s glitziest society events over the past year were two weddings in the family of Mukesh Ambani, the Indian tycoon who in 2018 became Asia’s richest person.

In December, his 27-year-old daughter Isha got married in a Bollywood-style extravaganza attended by global power brokers and titans of finance. Beyonce sang at the festivities, Hillary Clinton flew in and KKR & Co.’s Henry Kravis made an appearance. In March, her twin brother Akash wed in a ceremony attended by the likes of Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai.

The lavish events put Ambani’s eldest children in a very public spotlight at a time when they are playing more visible roles at his Reliance Industries Ltd.’s retail and telecommunications businesses.

Ambani, 62, has big ambitions in new areas like e-commerce and is enlisting his children to help drive the modernization of his empire. The rise of the twins offers early signs of the efforts the titan is making to groom his heirs. The billionaire on Aug. 12 announced that the world’s biggest crude producer, Saudi Aramco, will buy a 20% stake in the oil and chemicals business of Reliance Industries, allowing the Indian conglomerate to reduce the debt that increased during its expansion spree of recent years.

Over the coming decades, billions of dollars in wealth will be handed over to yet another generation in family-controlled businesses across Asia. Such dynastic transfers can come with pitfalls, as Mukesh and his younger brother, Anil, well know. More than a decade ago, the brothers were embroiled in a feud over the family business after their father, Dhirubhai, died without leaving a will.The twins are having a very different beginning to their careers from the patriarch, Dhirubhai. The late industrialist—who started out as a gas-station attendant in Yemen—built up Reliance Industries into a petrochemicals giant at a time when India’s economy was heavily controlled by the government.

“They have to show their mettle in entrepreneurship and strategy like their father and grandfather,” said Kavil Ramachandran, a professor and executive director at the Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise at the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business.

Representatives for the senior Ambani brothers declined to comment, and Isha and Akash were not available for interviews.

Appointed in 2014 to the boards of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., the mobile carrier unit, and Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd., the twins have raised their profiles in subsequent years, addressing investors at annual shareholder meetings and introducing new products. The duo also helped bring an open-office culture for top executives at the group’s corporate park in Mumbai’s outskirts.

At Reliance Industries’ annual meeting on Aug. 12, they demonstrated a range of applications such as virtual reality and conference calls that come with a new high-speed data network the company is rolling out.

Isha, a Yale University graduate and a former McKinsey & Co. consultant, kicked off Reliance’s e-commerce foray into fashion retail in 2016 by starting online shopping portal Ajio. Her husband is Anand Piramal, the son of Indian billionaire Ajay Piramal, whose interests range from pharmaceuticals to real estate.

Akash, a Brown University alumnus, has studied economics. He married his childhood sweetheart, Shloka Mehta, the daughter of a Mumbai-based diamond trader and jeweler. The twins have a younger brother, Anant, 24.

“Going forward, you will see Anant also taking some key responsibilities,” said Arun Kejriwal, founder at KRIS, an investment advisory firm.

The younger generation is getting involved at a time when Reliance is pivoting toward consumer offerings, which Ambani has said will contribute almost as much as the group’s core energy businesses by the end of 2028. Global retailers such as Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. are also expanding in India, bringing in new competition that the Ambani family must contend with in the coming years.

Ambani’s group is attempting to use its mobile carrier and retail units to tap India’s online shopping market, which by Morgan Stanley’s estimates will surge sixfold to $200 billion in about a decade. At the same time, Reliance’s Jio, since its debut in 2016, has shaken up India’s telecommunications industry with free calls and cheap data, forcing a consolidation that whittled down carriers to three from about a dozen four years ago.

The senior Ambani has credited his children with helping to nudge him into the internet business.

In 2011, while in India on a break from college at Yale, Isha complained about the poor quality of the internet at the family home, which made it more difficult for her to submit her coursework, Ambani has said. Meanwhile, Akash kept reminding his father that digital communications, rather than just phones, were now driving the world.

After Dhirubhai’s death in 2002, the brothers’ fight for control went on until their mother intervened in 2005 and brokered a settlement under which they carved up the vast empire. The older one kept the oil refining and petrochemicals businesses, while the younger one got the newer ventures in finance, infrastructure, power and telecom.

While the paths of the brothers diverged, so have their fortunes. Mukesh’s worth is about $50 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He lives a lifestyle to match, with a 27-story, 400,000-square-foot home in Mumbai named Antilia, after a mythical island, that boasts nine elevators, a spa, a 50-seat theater and a helipad.

The value of Anil’s holdings in companies, calculated net of pledged shares, is about $75 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with a net worth of at least $31 billion in 2008.  Stock prices of Anil’s various businesses have slumped as the units struggle to pay about $13 billion of debt—not counting his phone venture, which this year slipped into bankruptcy.

Bloomberg News is currently defending litigation brought by Anil Ambani and his Reliance Communications in connection with previous Bloomberg reporting.

Earlier this year, Mukesh stepped in to pay about $78 million of vendor dues owed by one of Anil’s businesses, helping his younger brother avoid a stint in jail.

Meanwhile, Mukesh isn’t the only one preparing his offspring for the future.Now working to reduce his debt load by selling the equivalent of more than $3 billion in assets, Anil also has an eye to the future. His son, Jai Anmol, 27, Anil’s son, was appointed executive director at Reliance Capital Ltd. in 2016.

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