-Rupee continues to recover, gains Rs4.16 in four months
The Pakistani rupee has maintained a gradual uptrend against the US dollar since the beginning of current fiscal year in July and is anticipated to gain more ground in the remaining eight months amid expectations of increase in foreign currency inflows.
The rupee gradually strengthened Rs4.16 or 2.60% in the past around four months to Rs155.88 to the US dollar in the inter-bank market on Friday, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). “The rupee may recover to 145 to the greenback by June 30, 2020,” Forex Association of Pakistan (FAP) President Malik Bostan projected while talking to The Express Tribune.
Further: -In a positive development, Pakistani Rupee hits highest level of four months against US dollar
The Pakistani rupee has shown recovery against the US dollar as the US currency reached the lowest level in four months.
-ExxonMobil to help build LNG terminal in Pakistan
After getting a liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply contract from private-sector consumers, US energy giant ExxonMobil is planning to build the third LNG terminal in Karachi as a joint-venture partner.
Some time ago, ExxonMobil, in collaboration with Pakistan’s exploration and production companies, drilled an offshore well to search for hydrocarbon reserves in the Arabian Sea. However, the effort could not prove successful. Now, in a new venture with Energas consortium, the US firm is going to invest in setting up an LNG terminal in Pakistan.
-Pakistan's Hindu community celebrates Diwali today in a renovated temple reopened by the Pakistan government after 72 years
he country’s Hindu community is celebrating the annual religious festival of Diwali. The religious festivities are expected to take place in Shawala Teja Singh Temple, located in Sialkot, after 72 years.
All preparations for the upcoming festival have been completed. The festival of Diwali is being seen as more of a cultural than a religious one as people from other faiths will celebrate alongside members of the Hindu community.
The temple, where the festivities will take place, was closed down in 1947. The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and certain members of the Hindu community decided to open the temple a few months ago, after which the renewal and renovation work had begun. Now, for the first time, this temple is going to celebrate a religious ceremony.
-Tax Returns Filed Per Day in 2019 Have Increased by 127 Percent: FBR Chairman
Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) Chairman Syed Shabbar Zaidi has announced that on average, tax returns filed per day in 2019 have risen by 127 percent compared to last year. In a Twitter post, Zaidi shared details of the tax returns filed so far. As per the records, the number of tax returns filed in 2019 till October 25 stands at 918,027, as compared to 585,209 tax returns filed in the same period last year.
Zaidi said that as of November, the FBR will impose strict measures against unauthorized interactions and harassement between its staff and the business community. The business community is suggested to report to FBR if any person contacts them through any manner without proper authorization.
-Pakistan, Nepal agree to enhance trade ties
President Dr. Arif Alvi on Saturday held a meeting with the Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli on the sidelines of 18th Non Aligned Movement Summit in Baku, ARY News reported.
According to a statement issued by the ministry, both the leaders affirmed to enhance trade ties between the two countries and expressed their desire to further strengthen the bonds of friendship. Matters of mutual interest, bilateral relations, regional peace, grave human rights violations and humanitarian crisis in occupied Kashmir and other issues were came under discussion in the meeting.
Speaking on the occasion, President Alvi briefed the Nepalese prime minister on Indian illegal actions in occupied Kashmir. He expressed hope that Nepal will play its role as SAARC chair, for strengthening peace and stability in the region.
-CPEC enters into 2nd phase: Poverty, agriculture, B2B initiatives prime focus: Khusro
Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Reform Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar Wednesday said the CPEC has now entered into its second phase with focus on poverty alleviation, agriculture and B2B industrial cooperation.
“The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government's economic reform measures will strengthen the country's economy as the investors' confidence is rebounding due to corrective measures," the minister expressed these views while talking to Australian High Commissioner Dr Geoffrey Shaw who called on him on Wednesday. Secretary Planning Zafar Hasan was also present in the meeting.
While discussing bilateral relations and foreign investment in various sectors in Pakistan especially in Gwadar, the minister said that ongoing phase of CPEC will bring about socioeconomic benefits for the welfare of the people. He said that CPEC offers enormous potential to boost national economy and reduce poverty.
-Pakistan's Defence Exports have reached USD 212.6 MILLION IN 2018-2019
According to the Pakistan Ministry of Defence Production’s (MoDP) “First Year Performance Report,” the country had registered $212.6 million US in defence exports from August 2018 to August 2019.
Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) booked the highest value at $184.38 million US, which was followed by Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) at $7.13 million US and Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) at $1.3 million US. In addition, private sector firms booked $19.36 million US in sales.
No additional breakdowns were provided by the MoDP. It is likely that PAC’s exports were fueled by co-production work for FC-1/JF-17 sales to Myanmar and/or Nigeria. Though an agreement was signed with Turkey for the sale of 52 Super Mushshak basic trainers, it is unclear if PAC has started manufacturing these aircraft.
-DRAP to launch countrywide drive against substandard, spurious medicines
The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) is launching a countrywide campaign against substandard medicines, the PM’s Special Assistant on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza said while addressing the federal and provincial drug inspectors in Islamabad on Thursday.
He said a crackdown is being launched throughout the country to eradicate the menace of unregistered, spurious and sub-standard medicine. In addition to medicine quality, he added, DRAP will also take stern action against violation of fixed prices of medicines.
-Foreign exchange: SBP reserves increase $79m to $7.89b
The foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank increased 1.14% on a weekly basis, according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Thursday.
Earlier, the reserves had spiralled downwards, falling below the $7-billion mark, which raised concern over Pakistan’s ability to meet its financing requirements. However, financial assistance from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and other friendly nations helped shore up the foreign exchange reserves.
On October 18, the foreign currency reserves held by the SBP were recorded at $7,892.7 million, up $79 million compared with $7,813.7 million in the previous week. The report cited no reason for the increase in reserves, which stood below the $8-billion mark.
-Ease of business: Pakistan up 28 places on World Bank index
Pakistan has jumped up 28 places on the World Bank’s (WB) Ease of Doing Business Index and secured a place among the top 10 countries with the most improved business climate – a development that will greatly improve Islamabad’s image abroad,
Pakistan carried out six reforms that helped improving its ranking from 136 to 108, according to the WB’s annual flagship report, ‘Ease of Doing Business 2020’, released on Thursday. It turned out to be the sixth global reformer and first in South Asia that brought ease in doing business in the last one year.
The fewer are the regulations the better is the ranking on the index. The key to attain perfection is to cut the bureaucracy hindering business activities in the name of various regulations and procedures.
-CM approves Rs 500m for Punjab Housing & Town Planning Agency
Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has given approval of Rs 500 million for Punjab Housing & Town Planning Agency. He gave approval while presiding over a high-level meeting at CM Office here on Monday. During the meeting progress on Naya Pakistan Housing Project for low-income persons was reviewed and detailed briefing was also given to the participants on Naya Pakistan Housing strategy.
While addressing the meeting, Usman Buzdar said that obstacles should be removed in order to ensure completion of Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and financial conditions of common man should be kept in mind while chalking out housing policy of the project. All out attention should be paid while constructing small houses in the province, he added. It has also been decided during the meeting to launch rural housing project in 17 model villages.
-KSE 100 gains 204 points amid improved sentiments
The benchmark KSE 100 Index depicted remarkable progress as it gained around 204 points and concluded at 33,861-level.It was a busy start to the week at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) with earnings season hitting its peak, while volumes remained at par with previous weeks’ average.
Biggest single day investment in treasury bills in the previous week of estimated US $87.5 million, increasing total investment to US$440 million since July 2019 was the major rally point in the market sentiments.
The bourse recorded an intraday low of 33,572.36 soon after the commencement of the session. However, after regaining the momentum, the index marked its day’s high at 34,008.35 adding 350.89 points. It settled higher by 204.13 points at 33,861.59. The KMI 30 Index accumulated 386.53 points to settle at 55,155.92, while the KSE All Share Index managed to gain 86.13 points, ending at 24,543.78.
-Sindh to reserve 0.5% job quota for transgender persons
The Sindh Cabinet on Wednesday agreed to reserve 0.5 per cent quota in government jobs for transgender persons. “I want to bring transgender people into the mainstream,” said Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah during the cabinet meeting. “We want to make them an asset for our society.”
CM Murad congratulated the transgender community on behalf of the cabinet and advised them to improve their education. Around 41,000 positions are vacant in different government departments across Sindh out of which 206 will be given to transgender people.
A spokesperson from the chief minister’s house stated that out of the 41,000 available jobs 16,000 positions will be filled this fiscal year. Rest of the positions will be filled in the period of next three years.
-Malaysia's Mahathir stands by Kashmir comments despite India palm oil boycott
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday he would not retract his criticism of New Delhi’s actions in occupied Kashmir despite Indian traders calling for an unprecedented boycott of Malaysian palm oil.
The impasse could exacerbate what Mahathir described as a trade war between the world’s second biggest producer and exporter of the commodity and its biggest buyer so far this year.
India’s top vegetable oil trade body on Monday asked its members to stop buying Malaysian palm oil after Mahathir said at the United Nations General Assembly last month that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir.
-“World’s two major companies setting up solar panel plants in Pakistan”
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry announced on Monday that the world’s two major solar panel firms will establish their plants in Pakistan. The minister tweeted saying “good news gets lost in political plays, yet I am very happy that the world’s two major companies are setting up solar panel’s plants in Pakistan.”
Chaudhry added that China’s second-largest Lithium battery producer will also set up its workshop in Pakistan. The Lithium battery-powered buses will also be manufactured in Pakistan, the tweet further said. The Minister for Science and Technology was recently on a visit to Beijing where he met various Chinese officials and the country’s business leaders.
-Pakistan Navy organizes free medical camp in Balochistan
Navy organized a free medical camp in the village Dam of Balochistan in collaboration with Sahil and Ulfat welfare foundations. According to the spokesperson of Pakistan Navy, specialist doctors of surgical, medical, skin, gynecology, child and general medically inspected patients at the camp. Over 700 patients were provided with free medical treatment, medicines and ordinary surgical facilities.
-Lahore to get Tram service soon
Citizens of Lahore are getting a modern-day tram service soon, based on the famous British-era tram service. In this regard, the Punjab Transport Department has inked an agreement with CRSC International, a Chinese company specializing in rail transportation control systems, and Inkon Group of the Czech Republic.
The development of the project is divided into several phases. In the first phase, a 35 km track will be constructed on Canal Road, Lahore. Up to 50 trams will run on this track. Once operational, the trams will be able to carry 35,000 passengers in 1 hour. The trams will be powered through electricity and batteries. A single tram will have a service life of around 40 years. 2 tram depots will be constructed at different locations as well.
-10 Pakistani Universities Ranked Among the World’s Best in ‘University Impact Rankings 2019’
Ten Pakistani universities have been ranked among the top universities in the world in the Times Higher Education (THE)’s list. THE is a weekly UK-based magazine that issues its annual list of world’s most influential universities.
The list called ‘University Impact Rankings 2019’ has included 10 Pakistani varsities in different categories, including Gender Equality, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Decent Work, Economic Growth, and others. According to the magazine, the rankings assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
-PM Imran Khan inaugurates China-Hub Power Generation Plant in Balochistan
Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan has said that Pakistan is moving forward through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. Addressing inaugural ceremony of China Hub Power Generation Plant in Balochistan, he said this is the first joint project under the CPEC umbrella and he is very happy after inaugurating it.
“The government will facilitate joint collaboration between Pakistani and Chinese businesses in various sectors.”, he said. PM Imran Khan said with the help of coal reserves in Thar, Pakistan can generate huge amount of electricity, which can be enough for at least 100 years.
-Punjab Forest Department develops ‘record keeping’ mechanism
Department of Forest Punjab is managing 1.6 million acres of forest land area – 67 per cent of the entire forest land area in Punjab – under the Geographic Information System (GIS), Pakistan Today learnt reliably on Friday. The program enabled the forests department to ensure sound management and introduce state of the art record-keeping and mapping methods.
‘Development of GIS-Based Forest Management Information System in Punjab’ was approved at PC-1 with a cost of Rs75 million and a gestation period of 36 months (2016-2019) has allowed for transfer of all forest resources and inventories into IT-based inventory systems and achieved extensive field surveys, rapid data collection and its processing for development of the forestry sector on efficient lines.
-Hutchison Port Holdings announces $240m investment in Pakistan
Prime Minister Imran Khan has welcomed $240 million foreign investment from Hutchison Port Holdings, a Hong Kong-based port operator. A delegation of Hutchison Port Holdings, led by its Group Managing Director Eric Ip, called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday. Other delegation members included HPH Middle East & Africa Managing Director Andy Tsoi and Middle East & Africa Business Director Eric Ng.
Maritime Affairs Minister Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Adviser to PM on Commerce Abdul Razzaq Dawood, Special Assistant to PM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Ambassador-at-Large for Foreign Investment Ali Jehangir Siddiqui and Board of Investment Chairman Zubair Haider Gilani were also present on the occasion. Group Managing Director Eric Ip apprised the prime minister of Hutchison’s fresh investment into Pakistan approximating $240 million which will enhance the new container terminal capacity at the Karachi Port, and increase Hutchison Ports’ total investment in Pakistan to $1 billion.
-Punjab's tax collection jumps 44%
Punjab’s tax collection registered a 44% growth to Rs77 billion in first quarter of the ongoing fiscal year compared to the corresponding period of previous year, despite tough conditions of the federal government for the provinces to get a share in the federal divisible pool of resources. Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht disclosed this at a review meeting of the Finance Department on Monday.
The meeting was briefed that despite the financial backlog left by the previous government, the current government gave a surplus budget of Rs233 billion in order to meet financial requirements of the federal government to comply with conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan programme.
-‘SECP recognised as 7th most effective regulator in world’
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has been recognised as the “7th most effective regulator” by the World Economic Forum in its ‘Global Competitiveness Report-2019’.
“Pakistan was ranked as the 52nd most dynamic economy in the world. The country secured this by improving 15 points from last year, as it stood at 67th in 2018,” said a statement issued by Mishal Pakistan, Country Partner at WEF’s Institute of the Future of Economic Progress System Initiative, on Wednesday. “The progress of Pakistan’s competitiveness was due to the achievements made during the last 12 months.”
The most effective improvements were made due to the initiative and strategies adopted by the apex regulator for the corporate sector and the capital markets; supervision and regulation of insurance, non-banking financial companies and private pension schemes. The SECP improved Pakistan’s competitiveness rankings by improving the “number of days to start a business”, where Pakistan was ranked at the 90th position compared with 96th in 2018.
-Pakistan China bilateral trade crosses $19 billion, highest ever in history
Pakistan Ambassador to China , Naghmana Hashmi has said the bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and China has now touched US $ 19.08 billion and both countries aimed to raise it further.
“The bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and China has now touched US$ 19.08. We aim to raise it further,” Ambassador Hashmi said joint ventures in defence production have led to the manufacture of the MBT 2000 Al-Khalid Tank and JF-17 Thunder, a fighter aircraft. “On the diplomatic front, the two countries are committed to protecting and promoting multilateralism and upholding the United Nations (UN)Charter, while our cooperation has extended to science and technology, socioeconomic sectors and nuclear cooperation for peaceful purposes,” she added.
-Foreign Company Agrees to Drop $6 Billion Penalty, Re-Invest in Reko Diq: Reports
The International Center of Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) had slapped the country with a $6 billion penalty for revoking the contract without prior knowledge back in 2009. Soon after the development, the Prime Minister had empowered his financial team to contact the executives of the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) to reach an out-of-court settlement and avoid the penalty.
Reportedly, after the Pakistan authority’s approach, the company has not only agreed to take back the penalty but has also agreed to invest in the project again. As per media reports, PM Imran Khan contacted the TCC management and discussed the prospects of the matter. He assured the company his full support if they wanted to revise the investment plan for the project. The company will reportedly withdraw its appeal from the ICSID, while Pakistan will compensate for their damages due to the cancelation of the contract.
-Current account deficit shrinks massive 64pc
The country’s current account deficit (cad) in the first quarter of current fiscal year declined by a huge 64 per cent mainly on the back of a 21pc reduction in the imports bill.
The State Bank’s latest data issued on Friday showed the current account deficit for July-September FY20 clocked in at $1.548 billion compared to $4.287bn in the same period last fiscal year; a decline of $2.739bn.
The reduced current account deficit is a positive omen for the government, which is struggling with slow economic growth and high inflation. However, despite massive decline in rupee’s value, the country’s exports have failed to register any noticeable increase during the period.
-Food imports down 24pc, exports up 14pc in Q1 FY20
Food group imports into the country during the first quarter of the current financial year (July-Sept 2019-20) decreased considerably by 24.7pc, whereas exports increased by 13.98pc compared with the corresponding period of last year.
The import of food commodities into the country during the period under review came down from $1.45 billion to $1 billion, whereas the exports increased from $864 million to $984.7 million, according to latest data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
-Chinese Smartphone Company Realme to build mobile phone manufacturing factory in Pakistan
Chinese company Realme's Director of Marketing in Pakistan Mr He Shunzi in an interview disclosed that Realme is planning to set up the mobile phone manufacturing factory in Pakistan. He told that company is inspecting locations in Islamabad, Peshawar, and Faisalabad Industrial Estate for suitable land. Pakistani mobile market offers guaranteed capital as Realme ranked top five android brands in Pakistan in less than nine months, capturing 8% of total market share, he added.
-Chinese Coal Giant Wants to Convert Thar’s Coal to Diesel
China’s Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Group will help convert Thar’s coal into oil and the talks between the two parties are underway. The Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Group is a subsidiary of China’s biggest coal producer, the Shenhua Group and the company already has the world’s largest plant for converting coal into diesel, with an annual production capacity of 4 million tons in Ningxia in its portfolio.
The agreement, if signed, will be a ‘game-changer’ for Pakistan, believes Adviser to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar, who accompanied Imran Khan on his recent visit to China. The Pakistani delegation held talks with the Shenhua Group during the trip:
-In a positive development, Pakistan projected among top 20 rising economic growth engines of the World
Pakistan projected among 20 top rising economic growth engines of the World that would dominate the global growth in next 5 years. Pakistan has been projected as one of 20 countries that will dominate global growth in five years time in 2024, an assessment made by Bloomberg using data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
-In a positive development, Pakistan textile exports register increase
Textile exports from the country increased by 2.95pc during the first quarter of the current fiscal year (July-Sept FY20) compared with the corresponding period of the last fiscal year. The textile exports during the period under review were recorded at $3,371.974 million as against the exports of $3,275.303 million during July-September 2018-19, according to latest data by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
The textile commodities that contributed to the positive growth included raw cotton, exports of which grew by 53.65pc, from $7.047 million to $10.828 million. Similarly, the exports of yarn (other than cotton yarn) increased by 21.95pc, from $7.759 million last year to $9.462 million, while that of knitwear surged by 11.14pc, from $701.393 million to $779.548 million.
-Kartarpur Corridor will open to public on November 9: PM Imran
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced that Pakistan will inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9. The premier’s announcement came via a Facebook post in which he said that construction work on the Pakistani side had entered the final stage. “Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe,” he wrote. “World’s largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world,” he said.
-'$1.2b penalty in Karkey case likely to be waived'
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and senior lawyer Babar Awan has said that the $1.2 billion penalty that Pakistan has to pay to Turkey’s Karkey rental power plant is likely to be waived.
“International institutions, through high-level backdoor contacts, have agreed to waive off the penalty. This is very good news for Pakistan,” said Awan while addressing the media on Friday. “International institutions have shown their trust in Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he added.
-Punjab Govt to Introduce a Unified Tax Collection System
Punjab government is contemplating the introduction of a unified tax collection system in the province. The unified system will streamline the tax collection process and facilitate the taxpayers. At the moment, Punjab Revenue Department, Excise and Taxation Department, and local administrations collect taxes in Punjab. On Sunday, Finance Minister of Punjab, Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht, headed a meeting of Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA). Bakht said that a special tax management unit will be set up at the Punjab finance department that will unify tax collection all across the country.
-PM To Launch Clean Green Pakistan Index for Multiple Cities
Prime Minister’s Adviser on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, said that Imran Khan will launch the Clean Green Pakistan Index (CGPI) at a grand launching ceremony on October 30. The initiative is aimed at introducing competition among cities on various indicators, including public access to clean drinking water, safe sanitation, effective solid waste management, and tree plantation.
The prime minister will announce a six-month competition among 19 cities of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces, he added. The adviser said that after six months, these cities will be ranked again and those with prominent progress will be rewarded with special federal and provincial government funds and more cities will be joining the competition.
-PM Khan Will Lay The Foundation of Baba Guru Nanak University on Oct. 28
Prime Minister Imran Khan is going to lay the foundation stone of Baba Guru Nanak University on October 28. The establishment of this university in Nankana Sahib was announced earlier this year when PM Khan was in the town for a Spring Tree Plantation Campaign.
-Sindh govt invites bids for Dhabeji SEZ
The Sindh government has launched the well-connected Dhabeji Special Economic Zone in district Thatta near Port Qasim, according to a statement issued on Monday. In this connection, the Sindh Economic Zones Management Company (SEZMC), being the provincial SEZ custodian, has invited proposals for the development and operation of Dhabeji project through an advertisement published in leading national and international newspapers.
Dhabeji SEZ was highlighted in the recent meeting of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Joint Working Group on Industrial Cooperation. The senior officials of China’s National Development Reforms Commission (NDRC) appreciated the Sindh government on the progress made so far. The Sindh government launched the project through an international competitive bidding process as a build-up to the upcoming 10th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting between China and Pakistan, which would be held next month.
-Rice exports surge 51pc in first quarter FY20
Rice exports from the country during the first quarter of the financial year 2019-20 grew by 50.76pc as compared to the corresponding period last year. During the July-September period, about 839,356 metric tonnes of rice, worth $470.584 million, were exported as compared the exports of 551.5,86 metric tonnes, valuing $312.147 million, during the same period of FY19.
According to data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the exports of basmati rice increased by 47.29pc, as 212,873 metric tonnes of basmati rice ($194.669 million) were exported during the first quarter of FY20, as compared the 127,669 metric tonnes ($132.166 million) in the same period of last year. Meanwhile, 34,090 metric tonnes of fish and fish preparations worth $79.549 million were also exported in the period under review as compared to the exports of 25,859 metric tonnes valuing $67.294 million during the same period of last year.
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It is time to take the Bitcoin bubble seriously By John Authers
The moment has come to take Bitcoin seriously. This month has seen notes on the online currency from mainstream foreign exchange analysts at Wall Street banks Citi and BofA Merrill Lynch. When Wall Street has to take bitcoin seriously, the online currency has arrived.
However, governments and central banks are also now taking bitcoin seriously. This week has also brought news that Baidu, the Chinese search engine, would no longer accept bitcoins as payment, after the People’s Bank of China ruled that Chinese banks should not process or insure bitcoin transactions.
So should investors also be taking bitcoins seriously? There are two levels to this question, as bitcoin aims to take at least two of the roles played by a currency; first as a store of value, and second as a means of exchange.
Its role as a store of value is encouraged by its founding computer algorithms, which guarantee continued scarcity. This gives it an appeal compared to “fiat” money, created for governments by central banks, where there is no limit on supply.
But, unlike fiat money, nobody is legally required to accept it. As Brown Brothers Harriman’s forex analyst Marc Chandler points out, creating such money remains a monopoly of governments. They are not likely to give it up. Therefore its value rests on perception – what people think it is worth. The same is true of gold. But millennia of history demonstrate that humans perceive some intrinsic value in a shiny metal. Bitcoins have only been around since 2009.
BofA Merrill Lynch’s heroic assumptions suggest that at very best bitcoins might one day gain a reputation to equal that of silver, which is perceived as worth only a sixtieth of gold. That implies a total value of about $5bn – far below its recent implicit valuation of $13bn.
However, as a means of exchange, bitcoin’s layers of cryptographic defences, the ability to pay instantly, and the security that comes with the ability to trace each transaction made with each coin, all offer intriguing advantages.
So far, it is not widely accepted. But this year’s hubbub of excitement over the currency suggests that it could be.
Merrill’s grand back-of-an-envelope estimate is that it might account for as much as 10 per cent of global online transactions, and of international worker remittances (which would again be a remarkable success). On that basis, bitcoins could fund annual transactions worth $9.5bn in today’s money. It is easy to poke fun at such huge extrapolations, but hard to come up with anything better. In any case, the point of Merrill’s guesswork is that even if bitcoin is as successful as it is possible now to imagine, it looks overvalued at recent prices. It is in a bubble.
But this does not prove that the concept has no future. Shares in Amazon.com were also in a bubble in the late 1990s, and yet proved a great long-term investment after the bubble burst. Wild swings in value are typical when new technologies arrive.
There is a further problem. Bitcoin, as Citi’s Stephen Englander points out, is replicable. The genius of the new currency is that it has built-in scarcity. But if the concept catches on as a means of payment, then demand will increase, and that scarcity will get in the way of its ability to function as a means of payment. It is not possible to conjure up a new precious metal to deal with this problem. But it is possible to conjure up new online currencies and that is already happening.
This could be an investment opportunity. Rather than an alternative to fiat currencies, bitcoin has a role in a critical trend; the disintermediation of banks. African tribesmen can now pay each other using their mobile phones, without involving a bank. Crowdsourcing systems raise loans over the internet without involving a bank. Internet currencies are part of the same trend.
Does bitcoin have first-mover advantage? Will other currencies be able to compete? Again, compare with Amazon. It used its first-mover advantage to become the dominant online retailer, as did Ebay in online auctions. Yet both contended with plenty of me-too rivals who were briefly valued very richly by the stock market. In internet search, first-mover advantage was no use to AltaVista, for a year or two as dominant as Google was to become. The same proved true for MySpace among social networks, or AOL among internet service providers. It is too soon to bet that bitcoin will be the hegemonic online currency, but there is plenty of time to bet on its competitors.
Where does this leave us? Foreign exchange analysts agree, mostly off the record, that Bitcoin is not worthy of being treated as a real currency.
Buying bitcoins while their price is so bubbly is nothing more than a gamble. Investing in other online currencies, or in companies that can help the bitcoin economy develop, looks like a sensible use of a venture capitalist’s money.
is filled with Luddites.
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