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INTERNET OF THINGS START-UP 1248 ANNOUNCES BACKING FROM TELCO ENTREPRENEUR

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Pilgrim Beart And Toby Jaffey

Rob Dobson, founder of Actix, sees IoT as next big thing

UK-based start-up 1248 Ltd., that provides expertise and services to the rapidly emerging Internet of Things (IoT) industry, has received a £1/4 million investment from experienced serial telco entrepreneur Rob Dobson, who takes up the position of Chair of the 1248 Board. Dobson founded mobile network optimisation company Actix and has a strong track record of backing successful early-stage technology ventures.

Pilgrim Beart And Toby Jaffey

Pilgrim Beart And Toby Jaffey

1248 helps companies to connect their products to the internet without spending time building infrastructure and provides off-the-shelf service components that make it quick and easy to build a scalable IoT platform. The company is already playing a leading role in creating an open standard to enable IoT applications and services to work together automatically, as part of a project funded by the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board. The prime minister, David Cameron has also just pledged to spend an extra £45m with UK firms on developing IoT technology.

“The Internet of Things wave is building and 1248 is in an ideal position to help companies break down vendor silos and implement open IoT solutions at scale,” said Rob Dobson. “1248 is one of the few start-ups whose founders have real experience of taking connected products to market in the millions and have a real practical and scalable approach to harnessing the opportunities presented by the IoT.”

1248 was set up in 2013 by Pilgrim Beart and Toby Jaffey. Previously, Beart has co-founded connected product companies activeRF, antenova, Splashpower and AlertMe, while Jaffey has over a decade of experience designing and developing connected devices, gateways and services at Polatis, AlertMe, RealVNC, HyperTag and Amino.

“Rob’s investment is great vindication and support of our strategy and the potential of our market,” said Pilgrim Beart, CEO at 1248. “Even more valuable to us is Rob’s in-depth market knowledge and contacts. The name 1248 reflects the ability of the IoT to scale to very large numbers and Rob’s experience of managing connected products extends into billions.”

1248 was born out of the University of Cambridge Computer Lab, where Beart was a Visiting Industrial Fellow, and the Lab retains an undilutable 1% Golden Share in the company.

About Rob Dobson

Rob Dobson founded Actix in 1991 and served as its CEO and CTO until 2007, growing revenues to over $50m by working with many of the world’s leading mobile operators and infrastructure vendors. He sold 72% of Actix to Summit Partners in 2005 at a valuation of $107m and subsequently 100% was sold to Amdocs for $127m in 2013. Over 90% of mobile operators around the world are Actix customers including China Mobile and Unicom, Airtel, Vodafone and Verizon. More than 90% of the world’s mobile phone customers have their networks optimized by Actix software. Dobson is also Chairman of SingleTrack systems, NED of cash-flow forecasting company Float, on the Advisory Board of RadioOpt GmbH and a Trustee of the Southbank Sinfonia.

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Fed still in crisis-fighting mode as recovery appears to moderate

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Fed still in crisis-fighting mode as recovery appears to moderate 1

By Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve on Wednesday left its key overnight interest rate near zero and made no change to its monthly bond purchases, pledging again to keep those economic pillars in place until there is a full rebound from the pandemic-triggered recession.

That hasn’t happened, and in the statement released after the end of their latest two-day meeting, U.S. central bank policymakers flagged a worrying slowdown in the pace of the recovery.

In a news conference after the meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell noted the economy’s resilience, with major industries like housing, financial services and others adapting to the coronavirus pandemic with new technologies and strategies.

But the economy also lost jobs in December, a large chunk of the workforce will likely remain sidelined until the health crisis eases, and Powell said the Fed’s rescue effort will not end until those Americans are working again.

“You cannot adapt motels, sports venues, movie theaters, restaurants, bars,” to function during a pandemic, Powell said. “That is millions and millions of people. You are just going to have to defeat the pandemic … We have not done it yet. We need to finish the job. It is within our power to do that as a country this year.”

His language marked a shift in the Fed’s rhetoric to both take full account of the potential boost to the economy that could come through widespread vaccinations and immunity, and to acknowledge the long slog the country faces on the road back to full employment.

Coronavirus vaccines were just being approved when the Fed held its last policy meeting in December. About 25 million doses of vaccine have been administered since then – Powell said he had taken the first of two shots – and the Biden administration is moving to accelerate distribution.

The sense of an approaching endgame to the crisis prompted the Fed to remove a reference in its statement to “medium term” risks from the pandemic, the most tangible incorporation so far of the impact of the vaccine into the central bank’s thinking.

“The risks are in the near term, frankly,” as the U.S. vaccine program ramps up and new disease variants threaten to spread more quickly, Powell told reporters. “There is good evidence to support a stronger economy in the second half of this year.”

The Fed’s decision to leave its benchmark overnight interest rate in a target range of 0 to 0.25% and to keep buying at least $80 billion of Treasury bonds and $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month was unanimous.

‘ACCOMMODATIVE’ STANCE

The Fed’s worries about the pace of the recovery put even more weight behind its pledge to keep monetary policy in an “accommodative” stance for what may be months or even years to come.

While largely hailed as a new and welcome commitment to the country’s labor force, the promise of cheap and plentiful credit has also sparked criticism that Fed policy has inflated asset prices, and stock markets in particular, to unsustainable levels.

Powell said on Wednesday that efforts by a central bank to “lean against” potential asset bubbles could do more harm than good.

He specifically declined to comment on the soaring share price of video game retailer GameStop Corp, which has surged in recent days as the result of a battle between retail investors and professional investors shorting the stock.

The Fed chief stressed that the central bank prefers to use macroprudential tools, including stress tests and liquidity levels, to address financial stability risks, and did not think those risks were presently outsized.

“We don’t really think we’d be successful in every case in picking the exact right time to intervene in markets,” Powell said. “We monitor financial conditions very broadly, and while we don’t have jurisdiction … over many areas in the non-bank sector, other agencies do.”

‘NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT’

The United States lost jobs in December, and many indicators of hiring and spending have stalled since the surge in coronavirus infections began in the fall.

The Fed said again that it would leave its bond-buying program untouched until there has been “substantial further progress” towards recovery and would keep the federal funds rate near zero until inflation hits its 2% target and is expected to stay there.

U.S. stocks fell further after the release of the Fed statement and Powell’s comments, with the benchmark S&P 500 index closing down about 2.6%, its biggest one-day percentage drop in three months.

Yields on U.S. Treasury securities remained lower on the day, and the dollar ticked higher against a basket of trading partner currencies.

“Both dials of Fed policy, forward guidance on rates and asset purchases, will be left on an ultra-dovish setting for ‘some time,'” said JP Morgan economist Michael Feroli. “It’s a long way to taper-ary,” he said of any Fed decision to trim bond purchases.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Additional reporting by Stephen Culp and Jonnelle Marte in New York and Ann Saphir in San Francisco; Editing by Dan Burns and Paul Simao)

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IMF lifts global growth forecast for 2021, still sees ‘exceptional uncertainty’

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IMF lifts global growth forecast for 2021, still sees 'exceptional uncertainty' 2

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday raised its forecast for global economic growth in 2021 and said the coronavirus-triggered downturn in 2020 would be nearly a full percentage point less severe than expected.

It said multiple vaccine approvals and the launch of vaccinations in some countries in December had boosted hopes of an eventual end to the pandemic that has now infected nearly 100 million people and claimed the lives of over 2.1 million globally.

But it warned that the world economy continued to face “exceptional uncertainty” and new waves of COVID-19 infections and variants posed risks, and global activity would remain well below pre-COVID projections made one year ago.

Close to 90 million people are likely to fall below the extreme poverty threshold during 2020-2021, with the pandemic wiping out progress made in reducing poverty over the past two decades. Large numbers of people remained unemployed and underemployed in many countries, including the United States.

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF forecast a 2020 global contraction of 3.5%, an improvement of 0.9 percentage points from the 4.4% slump predicted in October, reflecting stronger-than-expected momentum in the second half of 2020.

It predicted global growth of 5.5% in 2021, an increase of 0.3 percentage points from the October forecast, citing expectations of a vaccine-powered uptick later in the year and added policy support in the United States, Japan and a few other large economies.

It said the U.S. economy – the largest in the world – was expected to grow by 5.1% in 2021, an upward revision of 2 percentage points attributed to carryover from strong momentum in the second half of 2020 and the benefit accruing from $900 billion in additional fiscal support approved in December.

The forecast would likely rise further if the U.S. Congress passes a $1.9 trillion relief package proposed by newly inaugurated President Joe Biden, economists say.

China’s economy is expected to expand by 8.1% in 2021 and 5.6% in 2022, compared with its October forecasts of 8.2% and 5.8%, respectively, while India’s economy is seen growing 11.5% in 2021, up 2.7 percentage points from the October forecast after a stronger-than-expected recovering in 2020.

The Fund said countries should continue to support their economies until activity normalized to limit persistent damage from the deep recession of the past year.

Low-income countries would need continued support through grants, low-interest loans and debt relief, and some countries may require debt restructuring, the IMF said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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Leon Black step downs as Apollo CEO after review of Epstein ties

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Leon Black step downs as Apollo CEO after review of Epstein ties 3

By Mike Spector and Chibuike Oguh

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Leon Black said on Monday he would step down as chief executive at Apollo Global Management Inc, following an independent review of his ties to the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

While Black, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $8.2 billion, will remain Apollo’s chairman, his decision to step down illustrates how doing business with Epstein weighed on the reputation of one of Wall Street’s most prominent investment firms. Black co-founded Apollo 31 years ago.

Apollo said it plans to change its corporate governance structure, doing away with shares with special voting rights that currently give Black and other co-founders effective control of the firm.

The independent review, conducted by law firm Dechert LLP, found Black was not involved in any way with Epstein’s criminal activities. Black paid Epstein $158 million for advice on tax and estate planning and related services between 2012 and 2017, according to the review.

Black, 69, said that although the review confirmed he did not engage in any wrongdoing, he “deeply” regretted his involvement with Epstein.

“I hope that the results of the review, and related enhancements … will reaffirm to you that Apollo is dedicated to the highest levels of transparency and governance,” Black wrote in a note to Apollo fund investors. He will step down as CEO no later than July 31.

Apollo co-founder Marc Rowan, 58, will take over as CEO.

Rowan has often kept a low-key profile compared with Apollo’s other co-founder, Joshua Harris, 56, and spearheaded many initiatives that turned Apollo into a credit investment giant, including the permanent capital base the firm enjoys through its ties to reinsurer Athene Holding Ltd.

The revelations of Black’s ties to Epstein took a toll on Apollo, which Black turned into one of the world’s largest private equity groups. Apollo executives had warned in October that some investors had paused their commitments to the buyout firm’s funds as they awaited the review’s findings.

Apollo shares are down 1% since the New York Times reported on Oct. 12 that Black paid at least $50 million to Epstein for advice and services, when most of his clients had deserted him.

Over the same period, shares of peers Blackstone Group Inc, KKR & Co Inc and Carlyle Group Inc are up 19%, 10% and 23%, respectively.

“We think a large number of (Apollo fund investors) took a ‘pause’, and we believe the outcome (of the review) and changes today will cause most of them to return to allocating to future Apollo funds,” Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a research note.

Apollo shares jumped 4% to $47.65 in after-hours trading on Monday.

“We continue to follow these events closely and will evaluate how Apollo addresses its issues,” the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, one of the largest U.S. public pension funds and an Apollo investor, said in a statement.

Epstein was found dead at age 66 in August 2019 in a Manhattan jail, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges for allegedly abusing dozens of underage girls in Manhattan and Florida from 2002 to 2005. New York City’s chief medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was suicide by hanging.

FALLING OUT

Black previously said he had paid millions of dollars to Epstein, but the exact size of his payments was revealed for the first time on Monday. Beyond the $158 million in payments, Black made two loans to Epstein totaling $30.5 million in early 2017.

Dechert said in its report that Black’s social ties with Epstein, who built his fortune by endearing himself to powerful figures in high society, went back to the mid-1990s.

Epstein won Black’s trust by resolving an estate tax issue for him in 2012 potentially worth at least $500 million, the report said. He ended up advising Black on various aspects of his personal financial affairs, from his family office and airplane to his yacht and artwork.

Black believed that Epstein provided advice over the years that conferred between $1 billion and $2 billion in value to him, according to the Dechert report. Black said in his note to investors that he had paid Epstein a fee equivalent to 5% of the value he generated on an after-tax basis, and not tied to hourly rates.

Black and Epstein’s relationship deteriorated after Epstein failed to repay $20 million of the loans and Black refused to pay tens of millions of dollars in fees that Epstein demanded, according to the Dechert report.

They severed ties in October 2018, according to the report. Black knew Epstein had been convicted in Florida a decade earlier for soliciting prostitution from a minor, the Dechert report said, but there was no evidence suggesting Black had knowledge of the other alleged crimes before they were publicly reported in late 2018, culminating in Epstein’s July 2019 arrest.

On Monday, Black pledged $200 million toward “initiatives that seek to achieve gender equality and protect and empower women,” as well as helping survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

Apollo said it would pursue a “one share, one vote” corporate governance structure that would do away with shares with special voting rights. It said the move could qualify it for listing on the S&P Global indices.

Apollo also said it would seek to give its board more authority to oversee its business, eroding the power of its executive committee led by Black.

The board will be expanded to include four new independent directors, including Avid Partners founder Pamela Joyner and physician and scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee, Apollo said. Apollo co-Presidents Scott Kleinman and James Zelter will join the board and take on increased responsibility running day-to-day operations.

Apollo had about $433 billion in assets under management as of the end of September.

(Reporting by Mike Spector and Chibuike Oguh; Additional reporting by Lawrence Delevigne and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Leslie Adler and Kim Coghill)

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