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NEWTOWN PARTNERS INVESTS IN BLOCKCHAIN START-UP WALA, TO SOLVE FINANCIAL EXCLUSION AFFECTING 3.5BN PEOPLE

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NEWTOWN PARTNERS INVESTS IN BLOCKCHAIN START-UP WALA, TO SOLVE FINANCIAL EXCLUSION AFFECTING 3.5BN PEOPLE

Wala Secures Investment from LlewClaasen&VinnyLingham’s Venture Capital firm Ahead of a Planned Token Sale In October

Wala, a blockchain-powered financial services platform for the unbanked and underbanked, has today announced an equity investment from Newtown Partners, the venture capital firm founded by LlewClaasen and Vinny Lingham. Llew Claasen is the Managing Partner of Newtown Partners and also the Executive Director of the the Bitcoin Foundation. Vinny Lingham is best known as the Founder of mobile gift card company Gyft, sold to First Data in 2015 and more recently, Civic, a Silicon Valley-based startup that completed a $33m token sale for a digital identity management platform in July 2017. Newtown Partners previously assisted their portfolio company Augmentors, operating in the augmented reality space, to complete a very successful $1m token sale in February 2017, at the time the largest gaming token sale in the world. The new equity investment in Wala will enable the startup to deliver on the promise of zero-fee financial services for the 3.5bn consumers who are currently excluded from the formal financial system.

Wala is a platform that provides access to transactional banking, remittances, loans and insurance for the unbanked and underbanked. Wala works with best of breed specialist providers in each market they’re operational in, including banks, to offer a full suite of financial services. Partners benefit from the reach and low cost access to previously unserviceable customers enabled by the Wala platform.

Wala has already grown its financial services community to 1 million consumers in over 100 countries. These local customer communities have been instrumental in testing prototypes of the Wala Financial Platform and demonstrating that digital technology can be used to effectively remove the key barriers to the adoption of financial services by the underbanked and underserved: access,  cost and embedded economic incentives.

Wala founder and CEO Tricia Martinez commented: “Through the use of blockchain technology and tokenization, we have developed a platform that makes it possible to serve the financially excluded economically at scale. Our community’s guidance has ensured that the Wala Financial Platform has been built by the people for the people.”

The roll out of the Wala platform is initially planned for emerging markets in Africa, following the footprint of local banking services partners, before expanding globally.

“We are thrilled to be working with Newtown Partners,” continued Martinez. “The depth and breadth of their expertise as both entrepreneurs and investors in technology, combined with their commitment to creating globally successful startups will be key to the future success of Wala. We are excited about taking the next steps in our journey with Llew&Vinny.”

As part of that journey, Wala will be the launch partner for a new financial services utility token, Dala, which will be sold and issued in a crowdfunding token sale this October. Dala will support the operationalization and further development of scalable, blockchain-enabled financial platforms for developing markets around a common unit of account and microeconomic incentive structure to create strong network effects. The Dala token sale will look to crowdfund US$30M over a 4 week period and issue participants with their share of 300 million Dala utility tokens. The Dala token sale will also use the Civic app to provide identity verification services to backers.

“Wala’s blockchain-enabled platform will enable greater access to zero fee financial services to billions of consumers in emerging markets and enable everyone to become economically active, no matter where in the world they are. These are the kinds of big problems being addressed by  bold innovations that we like to back” explained LlewClaasen, managing partner of Newtown Partners.

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Oil rises on positive forecasts, slow U.S. output restart

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Oil rises on positive forecasts, slow U.S. output restart 1

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Tuesday, underpinned by the likely easing of COVID-19 lockdowns around the world, positive economic forecasts and lower output as U.S. supplies were slow to return after a deep freeze in Texas shut down crude production.

Brent crude was up 36 cents, or 0.5%, at $65.60 a barrel by 1212 GMT, and U.S. crude rose 39 cents, or 0.6%, to $62.09 a barrel.

Both contracts rose more than $1 earlier in the session.

“Vaccine news is helping oil, as the likely removal of mobility restrictions over the coming months on the back of vaccine rollouts should further boost the oil demand and price recovery,” said UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said optimistic oil price forecasts issued by leading U.S. brokers had also contributed to the latest upswing in prices.

Goldman Sachs expects Brent prices to reach $70 per barrel in the second quarter from the $60 it predicted previously, and $75 in the third quarter from $65 forecast earlier.

Morgan Stanley expects Brent crude to climb to $70 in the third quarter.

“New COVID-19 cases are falling fast globally, mobility statistics are bottoming out and are starting to improve, and in non-OECD countries, refineries are already running as hard as before COVID-19,” Morgan Stanley said in a note.

Bank of America said Brent prices could temporarily spike to $70 per barrel in the second quarter.

Disruptions in Texas caused by last week’s winter storm also supported oil prices. Some U.S. shale producers forecast lower oil output in the first quarter.

Stockpiles of U.S. crude oil and refined products likely declined last week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.

A weaker dollar also provided some support to oil as crude prices tend to move inversely to the U.S. currency.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, additional reporting by Jessica Jaganathan in Singapore; editing by David Evans and John Stonestreet)

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UK-Japan trade deal settled nerves for Japanese firms, Honda executive says

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UK-Japan trade deal settled nerves for Japanese firms, Honda executive says 2

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s trade deal with Japan settled the nerves of a lot of Japanese businesses in the United Kingdom and gives them confidence about their future prospects there, a senior Honda executive said on Tuesday.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, has since the 1980s made the United Kingdom its favoured European destination for investment, with the likes of Nissan, Toyota and Honda using the country as a launchpad into Europe.

But Britain’s shock 2016 decision to leave the European Union had prompted Japan to express unusually strong public concerns. Their companies and investors warned that a disorderly exit from the EU would force them to rethink their four-decade bet on Britain.

“We welcome very much the Japanese trade agreement which as a Japanese businesses was very welcomed,” Ian Howells, senior vice president at Honda Motor Europe, told a parliamentary committee.

“On the point around confidence, that certainly amongst my peers in Japanese companies was very much welcomed, and probably settled a lot of nerves in terms of their trading prospects in the UK going forward.”

Britain and Japan formally signed a trade agreement in October, marking Britain’s first big post-Brexit deal on trade. It has also made a formal request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), of which Japan is also a member.

(Reporting by Kate Holton)

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UK retailers see sharp fall in sales and mounting job losses, CBI says

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UK retailers see sharp fall in sales and mounting job losses, CBI says 3

LONDON (Reuters) – British retail sales fell in the year to February as stores cut jobs at a rapid rate, with only supermarkets reporting any growth during the latest COVID-19 lockdown, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Confederation of British Industry’s gauge of retail sales stood at -45, up only slightly from January’s eight-month low of -50. The measure points to falling sales and is below the consensus forecast of -38 in a Reuters poll of economists.

Retailers’ expectations for March – when non-essential shops will remain closed to the public as part of lockdown measures – fell to -62, the lowest since the series began in 1983.

In another sign of a changing consumer habits during lockdown, the survey’s gauge of internet retail sales hit a new record high.

“With lockdown measures still in place, trading conditions remain extremely difficult for retailers,” said Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI.

“Record growth in internet shopping suggests that retailers’ investments in on-line platforms and click-and-collect services may be paying off, but the re-opening of the sector can’t come soon enough to protect jobs and breathe life back into the sector.”

Job losses among retailers accelerated according to a quarterly question in the survey. For the distribution sector as a whole, which includes wholesalers and car dealers, employment fell at a record rate, the CBI survey showed.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)

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