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Mashreq Bank partners with SunTec to meet VAT compliance

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Mashreq Bank partners with SunTec to meet VAT compliance

Bank to leverage SunTec’sXelerate to navigate the complexities of VAT

SunTec, the leader in revenue management and customer experience orchestration, today announced its partnership with Mashreq Bank, one of the leading financial institutions in the UAE.

Through this collaboration, SunTec will enable seamless computing and invoicing of the recently introduced Value Added Tax, without causing disruptions to Mashreq’s existing systems.

Commenting on the corporation, Nanda Kumar – Founder and CEO of SunTec, said, “We are proud to be the partner of choice for Mashreq Bank in their journey towards VAT compliance. Xelerate for VAT has been designed specifically to ensure that our clients find it convenient to become VAT compliant with least amount of interference to their existing infrastructure and carry on with business as usual. This is achieved by integrating all key systems with a single over-the-top (OTT) VAT solution that can become a real-time basis for tax computation.”

Commenting on the partnership; Sandeep Chouhan, Head of Operations and Technology, Mashreq Bank, stated: “We are pleased to implement SunTec’sXelerate, which is expected to have a tangible positive impact on streamlining our operations and establishing a convenient tax compliance structure. As Mashreq works on building an efficient and smooth VAT computing system both within our frontend and backend processes, we believe Xelerate is a technology that will easily integrate within our existing infrastructure. Ultimately, we believe the new technology will largely benefit our customers, many of whom are still adapting to the changes that VAT brings, and help them understand how their financials are being affected in a clear and precise manner.”

SunTec’sXelerate for VAT has been specifically developed for the Gulf nations to cater to the newly added complexity of taxes. It is uniquely designed to be an over-the-top (OTT) solution and can easily integrate with the existing technology landscape of Mashreq Bank. This ‘out-of-the-box’ will integrate multiple back-end systems and ensure banks’ and financial institutions’ smooth journey towards VAT compliance.

VAT is the first step that the GCC countries have taken towards a tax regime. All industries will get affected by this, including banking and financial services which is one of the major industries SunTec caters to. Companies with presence in multiple GCC countries will likely see manifold increase in complexities over time. It is imperative to streamline operations so that service offerings are not compromised and the financial institutions maintain the competitive edge.

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers 1

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank is working to standardize COVID-19 vaccine contracts that countries are signing with drug makers, and is pushing manufacturers to be more open about where doses are headed, as it races to get more vaccines to poor countries, the bank’s president said on Friday.

World Bank President David Malpass told Reuters he expected the bank’s board to have approved $1.6 billion in vaccine funding for 12 countries, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Ethiopia, by the end of March, with 30 more to follow shortly thereafter.

The bank is working with local governments to identify and fill gaps in distribution capacity, after they purchase vaccines under a $12 billion World Bank program, and also to standardize the contracts they are signing with manufacturers, he said.

The bank’s International Finance Corp, its private financing arm, has $4 billion to invest in expanding existing production plants or building new ones, including in developed countries, but needs more data on where current production is headed, he said.

“We are eager to be investing in new capacity, but it’s hard to do because you don’t know how much of the existing capacity is already committed to the various off-takers,” Malpass said in an interview with Reuters. New or expanded plants could be used to produce other types of vaccinations in the future, he said.

The bank’s funds could be used to expand plants in advanced economies, if the production was earmarked for developing nations, he said.

Malpass welcomed Friday’s pledge by the Group of Seven rich countries to intensify cooperation on the pandemic, saying it could help jump-start deliveries of vaccines to poorer countries, which are lagging far behind rich countries in getting shots in arms.

Data compiled by Our World In Data, a scientific online publication, showed Israel was leading the world in COVID-19 vaccinations, with nearly 82 of 100 people vaccinated, while India and Bangladesh reported less than one person per 100, Many African countries have not started at all.

Malpass said he was heartened by news about new vaccines coming down the road, and about Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE seeking permission to store their vaccine at higher temperatures, which would ease another obstacle to deliveries in lower-income countries.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Leslie Adler)

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion 2

By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google will evaluate the performance of its vice presidents and above on team diversity and inclusion starting this year, the company said on Friday in one of several responses to concerns about its treatment of a Black scientist.

Timnit Gebru, co-leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence research team, said in December that Google abruptly fired her after she criticized its diversity efforts and threatened to resign.

Alphabet and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai ordered a review of the situation. While Google declined to share specific findings, the company announced on Friday it will engage human resources specialists during sensitive employee departures.

Pichai in June said that by 2025, Google aims to have 30% more of its leaders come from underrepresented groups, with a focus on Black, Latinx and Native American leaders in the United States and female technical leaders globally. About 96% of Google’s U.S. leaders at the time were white or Asian, and 73% globally were men.

As a result of the investigation, the company also expanded a commitment announced in June to devote more resources to retaining and promoting existing employees, including by expanding a team addressing disputes among workers and their managers.

The diversity component of executive performance reviews was not previously announced, and the company did not immediately share details about what would be measured and how pay would be affected.

Alphabet for years had rejected proposals from shareholders and employees to set diversity goals and tie executive pay to them.

Irene Knapp, a former Google employee who advocated for one such proposal at a 2018 shareholder meeting, said on Friday, “I am pleased that they met our demand from 2018, which was a bare minimum that should have been easy to do immediately.”

Evaluating managers on diversity goals is becoming more commonplace. McDonald’s Corp on Thursday tied executive bonuses to diversity.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Bitcoin hits $1 trillion market cap, surges to fresh all-time peak

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Bitcoin hits $1 trillion market cap, surges to fresh all-time peak 3

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Tom Wilson

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin touched a market capitalization of $1 trillion as it hit yet another record high on Friday, countering analyst warnings that it is an “economic side show” and a poor hedge against a fall in stock prices.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency jumped to an all-time high just below $55,772, posting a weekly jump of 13%. It has surged roughly 66% so far this month and was last up 6.8% at $55,079.

Bitcoin’s gains have been fueled by signs it is gaining acceptance among mainstream investors and companies, from Tesla Inc and Mastercard Inc to BNY Mellon.

All digital coins combined have a market cap of around $1.7 trillion.

“If you really believe there’s a store of value in bitcoin, then there’s still a lot of upside,” said John Wu, president of AVA Labs, an open-source platform for creating financial applications using blockchain technology.

“If you look at gold, it has a market cap $9 or $10 trillion. Even if bitcoin gets to half of gold’s market cap, that’s still growth of 4X, or $200,000. So I don’t know when it stops rising,” he added.

The next milestone will be overtaking Alphabet Inc, currently valued at $1.431 trillion, said Jacob Skaaning, portfolio manager at crypto hedge fund ARK36.

“There will likely be some big fluctuations along the way, but I’m still very bullish and I believe the uptrend will continue for the time being,” he added.

Still, many analysts and investors remain skeptical of the patchily regulated, highly volatile digital asset, which is little used for commerce.

Analysts at JP Morgan said bitcoin’s current prices were well above estimates of fair value. Mainstream adoption increases bitcoin’s correlation with cyclical assets, which rise and fall with economic changes, in turn reducing benefits of diversifying into crypto, the investment bank said in a memo.

“Crypto assets continue to rank as the poorest hedge for major drawdowns in equities, with questionable diversification benefits at prices so far above production costs, while correlations with cyclical assets are rising as crypto ownership is mainstreamed,” JP Morgan said.

Bitcoin is an “economic side show,” it added, calling innovation in financial technology and the growth of digital platforms into credit and payments “the real financial transformational story of the COVID-19 era.”

Other investors this week said bitcoin’s volatility presents a hurdle for it to become a widespread means of payment.

On Thursday, Tesla boss Elon Musk – whose tweets have fueled bitcoin’s rally – said owning the digital coin was only a little better than holding cash. He also defended Tesla’s recent purchase of $1.5 billion of bitcoin, which ignited mainstream interest in the digital currency.

Bitcoin proponents argue the cryptocurrency is “digital gold” that can hedge against the risk of inflation sparked by massive central bank and government stimulus packages designed to counter COVID-19.

Yet bitcoin would need to rise to $146,000 in the long-term for its market cap to equal the total private-sector investment in gold via exchange-traded funds or bars and coins, according to JP Morgan.

Rival cryptocurrency ether also hit an all-time peak of $1,974.99 on Friday, and was last up 1% at $1,958.76, after its futures were launched on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Bitcoin’s surge extended to crypto-related stocks as well, such as Silvergate Capital Corp, which was up 8.2%, cryptocurrency miner Riot Blockchain, 13.5 higher%, and Marathon Patent Group, up 7.3%.

Shares of Overstock.com, an online retailer and blockchain tech investor, gained 4.1%; while MicroStrategy Inc, a bitcoin buyer and business intelligence software firm, advanced 4.1%.

(Graphic: Cryptocurrencies surge multi-fold from March lows link: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/yzdpxwaynvx/Pasted%20image%201613731432324.png)

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York and Tom Wilson in London; Editing by Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)

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