We are back with the Monday news summary, highlighting the most important stories in fintech, telecom, and biotech. This week we will talk about the Brazilian unicorn Nubank making its way into e-commerce, Revolut announcing a new acquisition, ECB approving a crypto oversight framework, Stripe upgrading its European services, Palau getting ready to issue a government-backed stablecoin with the support of Ripple, UK customers saying Christmas would be impossible without BNPL, Brankas helping Open Banking Exchange launch in Asia, Telenor selling $330 million worth of fiber in Sweden, Orange CEO forced to step down after the recent court ruling, and biotech companies testing the vaccine effectiveness against the new Covid-19 variant.
The Brazilian neobank unicorn Nubank is continuing its impressive growth as the founders just announced it will be adding an e-commerce section to the app. As the new feature launch, millions of customers in Brazil will be able to shop at AliExpress, Dafiti, Magalu, and many other retailers through the app.
“At Nubank, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our customers’ lives by making experiences simpler and unlocking greater value for their money.” David Vélez, CEO, Nubank, says. “We have worked closely with our customers to understand their needs and pains, and how to build products to address them, creating a ‘Nubank standard quality’ of services that customers have been asking to go beyond financial solutions for years.With this new offering, we are able to further provide these services in many other areas of their lives and make the overall experience more enriching and fulfilling.”
At the same time, Nubank is preparing for a listing in the US, with the valuation forecast exceeding $55 billion.
We can see that Revolut has big plans regarding the move to an actual physical point-of-sale business due to its newest acquisition. The legendary fintech just announced it will acquire the hospitality technology provider Nobly.
The British startup founded back in 2013 is best known for its ePOS system that allows the hospitality businesses to efficiently manage their operation thanks to Nobly’s app. The merchants across the US, UK, and Australia are currently using the solutions. Now, Nobly’s offering is being integrated into the Revolut payment processing systems. The company plans to launch the product globally, making it a direct competition to Square.
Nik Storonsky, CEO of Revolut said: “The Nobly team has built a great product and expertise which will further advance our mission to offer a one stop shop solution to enable merchants of every kind to manage their finances and run their businesses from a single platform.”
Last week, the European Central Bank announced its approval of the new oversight framework for electronic payments, crypto-assets and stablecoins included. The new framework aims at effectively assessing security of a given electronic payment system. With its introduction, ECB will be able to oversee companies that are involved in electronic payments to a broader degree. ECB’s framework is also specifically discussing crypto-assets and highlights that services such as the acceptance of crypto-assets by merchants or electronic wallet payments using crypto will also be controlled.
“The retail payments ecosystem is evolving fast owing to innovation and technological change. This calls for a forward-looking approach in overseeing digital payment solutions,” says ECB Executive Board member Fabio Panetta. “The PISA framework will include digital payment tokens such as stablecoins, alongside traditional payment instruments and schemes we have gained experience in over the years. Internationally coordinated action will also have to be stepped up to cope with the challenges posed by global digital payment solutions and stablecoins.”
The companies that are under ECB’s regulatory ambit must start adhering to the newly approved regulations by next November. As for the other companies, an additional 12 month-since-notified grace period will be provided.
Stripe has just upgraded its European services as it is launching the actual payment infrastructure point-of-sale Terminal product across several countries. The Terminal will be available in Ireland, Germany, the UK, France, and the Netherlands. Several businesses including Shopify or Taxi.de have already been onboarded to the Terminal and they are joined with several online retailers. The unique feature of The Terminal is that it provides a bridge between online and offline payments, allowing the merchants to take advantage of an omnichannel platform.
Matt Henderson, Emea business lead at Stripe, comments: “Over the last decade it’s become much easier to accept in-person or online payments. But as soon as you want to do both, it would get complex and challenging. The expansion of Stripe Terminal means businesses in Europe around the world can easily unify their in-person and online payments experiences.”
“For Shopify merchants, integrating their offline and online businesses is crucial, and that includes payments,” says Shimona Mehta, managing director, EMEA at Shopify. “We are seeing hybrid shopping take on greater importance for consumers this coming Black Friday Cyber Monday. The expansion of Stripe Terminal will mean that more of our merchants can manage in-person and online payments through Shopify, streamlining their workflows to provide a greater consumer experience.”
The Republic of Palau located on the Western Pacific has decided they will create the government-issued national stablecoin and they have poached no other than Ripple to support them. Together with Ripple, the small island state plans to explore the options within the XRP Ledger and develop strategies for cross-border payments. Ripple will not only help with the technical and design challenges but also support the state when it comes to policies and business. If everything goes according to the plan, we could see the stablecoin being launched already in a few months.
Palau president Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. says: “The first phase of the partnership will focus on a cross-border payments strategy and exploring options to create a national digital currency, providing the citizens of Palau with greater financial access.”
A fresh report by the credit reference agency Equifax shows that a quarter of UK customers using BNPL say that would not be able to afford Christmas shopping if it was not for Buy Now Pay Later services that spread the costs for them. The report also found that the popularity of BNPL in the UK is growing rapidly, with almost 30% of all surveyed shoppers regularly using BNPL, which is 2.6 million more than in December of last year.
“BNPL is not a new concept, it’s been part of the UK’s credit industry for decades, but it has taken on new forms in recent years that has sent its popularity soaring. For switched on shoppers that want to smooth out their spending over the festive period, it can be an incredibly useful budgeting tool, and may soon even help those with thin credit files to build up a healthy credit score.” Jayadeep Nair, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Equifax UK, said. “However, as useful as BNPL can be, it’s important that shoppers don’t see it as a way to overstretch themselves in the coming weeks. Prices are rising, interest rates are creeping up, and unless wages keep pace, most borrowers will see their finances squeezed over the coming months. The message to shoppers considering using BNPL at the checkout is clear: are you sure you can make the repayments on time? And could you have afforded this purchase without BNPL?”
We have reported on Asia trying to develop open banking and open finance several times. Now, the Open Banking Exchange (OBE) has partnered with a tech company Brankas that provides open banking solutions and is known for working closely with the Asia Pacific market. OBE Asia will be led by Brankas’ Todd Schweitzer and will focus on replicating the success from other regions in Asia and creating the rules and standards while driving financial inclusion in the APAC region.
“We have a proven track record in supporting the ecosystem in the evolution of Open Banking and Open Finance across Europe and other international markets,” said John Broxis, Managing Director, Open Banking Exchange. “Each country and jurisdiction are different, so there is no model that fits them all. Through OBE Asia, there will be many opportunities for collaboration and learning and we believe that Todd and his team are best placed to support us in the region.”
Todd Schweitzer, Director of OBE Asia commented: “John and the Open Banking Exchange team have unparalleled experience in enabling ecosystem members to successfully turn regulatory standards and rules into operational reality. We believe that combined with our local market expertise, the Open Banking Exchange Membership Programme can bring real value to the open banking community in Asia.”
In a 3 billion kroner ($330 million) deal with Global Connect, Telenor Sweden will sell a part of its fiber infrastructure. Global Connect will get the fiber wholesale business Open Universe that currently connects more than 200 000 Swedish homes with fiber. The Open Universe will not change the name and the business model will remain the same.
“We see market consolidation as a natural development in our industry, which will ultimately accelerate digitization and social inclusion across society. We will therefore continue to explore possible acquisitions across all our markets, given that they fit our business model and can contribute to an even stronger offering to our customers,” said Martin Lippert, CEO GlobalConnect Group. “Acquiring Open Universe and valuable fiber assets from Telenor Sweden fits perfectly into our strategy,” he added.
The Chairman and CEO of Orange, Stéphane Richard, has been forced to resign after a court ruling by the French appeals court. The verdict of the court has partially overturned an earlier 2019 ruling that cleared Richard of all charges connected to the alleged payment from the French state to Bernand Tepie back in 2008 before Richard assumed his position as Orange’s CEO and was still a part of the French government as a Chief of Staff for the (then) Finance Minister Christine Legarde.
However, in the latest ruling, the court decided Richard was guilty of complicity in misusing public funds. Apart from the suspended prison sentence, the bigger problem for Richard is the criminal status that does not allow him to continue as Orange’s CEO considering the telco is partly owned by the French state.
Richard issued a statement after the verdict was given, “The accusations of complicity in the misuse of public funds are without any foundation whatsoever and have no basis in fact. I reject them absolutely and will now take my appeal to the French high court of justice (Cour de cassation). No new elements have emerged in this appeal process and I remind you that I was totally acquitted in the first instance by the Court. During the process, the charges have shifted from fraud to complicity in fraud and then to my full acquittal, and now today to the dismissal of the complicity in fraud charge, but a verdict on a new charge of complicity in the misuse of public funds… This is totally incomprehensible and profoundly unjust.”
Although Richard claims he is not guilty of any wrongdoing, he handed in his resignation and it has since then been accepted by the Orange Board. The new governance structure is to be decided by the 31st of January 2022.
As the world is, once again, battling a new and dangerous variant of the Covid-19 virus, the vaccine makers are rushing the tests that can show how effective the different vaccines are in protecting against the Omicron variant. BioNTech is currently testing the new strain which “differs significantly from previously observed variants”, as noted by the company’s spokesperson. The research will show whether a modification to the vaccine is needed.
“We expect more data from the laboratory test in two weeks at the latest,” a BioNTech spokeswoman told Reuters. “These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally.”
She also highlighted that the company already created plans for adapting the vaccine within six weeks and having it shipped globally within 100 days total if such an action would be necessary. At the same time, the company is testing whether a higher dosage of the third booster shot that people are currently receiving would be efficient protection.
“A booster dose of an authorized vaccine represents the only current available strategy for boosting waning immunity,” it said in a statement.