Binance finally falls to the US government—but is it actually a win for all?
Only in crypto can a $4B fine and impending jail time feel like a win... but a win it may be
We are quite crypto heavy this week, but don’t worry we are talking about dramatic stuff only:
How a $4B fine and potential jail time can be considered a win for crypto’s biggest company
A look at the other side crypto frauds, how the benefactors live in plain sight in Asia
The skinny on sovereign Bitcoin mining programme
There’s plenty more to get into this week, of course, including TikTok’s interest in Tokopedia, how China spies stole IP from a Dutch chip firm over three years, more woe for edtech unicorn Byju’s, and Singapore’s decision to tighten crypto purchases for retail investors.
Have a great week and see you later,
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News in focus
Binance finally falls to the US government—but is it actually a win for all?
It was a decisive week for Binance in which it pleaded guilty to money laundering violations and agreed to pay a record settlement of $4.3B in fines and restitution to the U.S. government. Founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) agreed to step down and he will likely face jail time.
You know it is crypto when people talk of a $4B fine and jail time being a “win” for Binance.
That would be enough to tank most companies, and probably some countries. But the reality is that it probably is a victory in many ways for Binance. As a private company, it’s impossible to know Binance’s financial figures but estimates suggest revenue was around $20B in 2021. Crypto exchanges with scale tend to be profitable, and nobody has scale like Binance—it continues to be the place where projects want to list tokens to an audience of hungry investors, those retail investors flock there for earliest possible access to new listings.
Still, the post-CZ era will be a challenge. You’d imagine other governments will follow suit and go after the business, while regulatory and compliance demands will be higher than ever. That’s a battle for new CEO Richard Teng, a Singaporean who was formerly chief regulatory officer for the SGX.
For now, most in the crypto industry are happy to see the uncertainty over Binance come to a head of sorts even if the government and others can claim a big win. For now, watch to see the race to replace Binance at the top of the tree.
Inside the billion-dollar ‘pig-butchering’ industry
We often see reports of individuals duped into sending crypto to fraudsters who befriend them online—a crime known as “pig butchering” which took $2.6B from victims in the US alone last year. Often, though, little is seen beyond the victims. Reuters digs into one alleged perpetrator, a Chinese national in Thailand who has had millions of dollars of crypto from victims of scams sent to his Binance account. The story details how the man built ties to top police and politicians despite his murky business dealings.
A look at Bhutan’s bitcoin mining programme
The kingdom became the first country to have founded a sovereign bitcoin mine approximately four years ago. Forbes looks into the programme, and in particular its sites, one of which is the location of a failed ‘education city.’
ByteDance explores TikTok investment in Tokopedia
What do you do if a government bans your product? Work with a local champion. That’s the logic TikTok might take in Indonesia, where it is reportedly in talks to invest in Tokopedia—the retail unit of GoTo—as it bids to restart its e-commerce business in Southeast Asia’s largest market.
Anti-censorship tools are quietly disappearing into thin air in China link
Earlier this month, client software Clash for Windows, a popular proxy tool that helps users bypass firewalls and circumvent China’s censorship system, suddenly stopped appearing on GitHub: The repository had been the main route for users to download it and the developer to update it.
Alibaba has shaken up cloud unit management after scrapping plans for it to IPO due to geopolitical tension link
AR startup Rokid raised $112M at a valuation of $1B link
Xiaomi posted its first revenue growth in six quarters thanks to an uptick in smartphone sales link
A recent change to force legal names to be displayed has seen influencers leave or stop using Weibo link
Baidu reported third-quarter revenue that beat estimates link
ByteDance’s Douyin has tightened its screening of advertisers in response to Beijing’s increased control of short video content link
Tencent is eying China’s multibillion dollar healthcare sector with social media and AI models link
Jack Ma is walking back plans to trim his stake after Alibaba suffered its biggest selloff in more than a year link
Ma has not sold a single share in Alibaba, as the stock price has not reached the level the billionaire was seeking, according to an internal memo from the company’s Chief People Officer Jane Jiang Fang
Meanwhile though, Jack Ma has a new venture selling pre-packaged food amid bets on agriculture since leaving e-commerce giant link
Huawei’s smartphone spin-off Honor has begun preparations for an IPO—there’s no timeframe and it isn’t clear where a listing might take place link
The US-China chip battle
Broadcom and VMwre finally closed their $69B merger after Beijing gave its approval for the deal, despite concerns it might push back due to tension with the US link
A Chinese hacker group reportedly stole chip designs and other IP from top European firm NXP over a three year period link
British chip designer Graphcore, once seen as a potential rival to Nvidia, is laying off most of its staff and discontinuing sales in China as part of necessary cost-cutting link
Nvidia has reportedly delayed the launch of a new China-focused AI chip link
China's secretive Sunway Pro CPU quadruples performance over its predecessor, allowing the supercomputer to hit exaflop speeds link
Baaz Bikes, which provides electric bikes for gig economy workers, raised $8M led by Singapore-based Big Capital. link
When it rains it pours. Byju’s has been under pressure for its sale tactics and financing—now it stands accused of $1.1B in forex violations link
The ED’s [Enforcement Directorate] allegations say that the Bengaluru-headquartered startup has violated rules under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), to the tune of $1.12 billion, by failing to submit documents of imports against advance remittances and proceed of exports made outside India and delayed filing of documents for foreign direct investment received by the startup.
OneWeb scored approval to launch satellite broadband services in India link
Travel fintech Scapia raised $23M led by Elevation Capital and Binny Bansal’s Three State Ventures link
Audio entertainment startup Pocket FM is close to raising over $80M in a round potentially led by Lightspeed link
Tiger Global’s head of private investments Scott Shleifer has stepped down, but the firm’s India bets remain a major focus link
Adobe acquires Lightspeed-backed generative AI startup Rephrase.ai link
Disney sets India cricket viewership record for streaming as 518M viewers from India watched matches during the 48-day event on TV—its streaming app recorded a peak concurrent viewership of 59M during the finals link
Berkshire Hathaway sold its stake in Paytm at a 40% loss link
Edamama, aPhilippines online-to-offline (O2O) parenting platform, raised a Series A+ round to take its funding total to $35M link
Motional and Hyundai will jointly build the IONIQ 5 robotaxi in Singapore link
Chinese EV upstart Li Auto is hunting for chip talent in Singapore link
Malaysia and Vietnam electronics industries face closer US scrutiny over China forced labour link
MAS is tightening crypto rules for Singapore retail customers—the proposed measures include preventing crypto service providers in Singapore from accepting payments through locally issued credit cards link
TSMC is considering building a third plant in Japan that would make advanced 3-nanometer chips—the facility could cost about $20B and potentially turn the East Asian nation into a major global chipmaking hub link
Japan's Resonac is to open a chip packaging R&D centre in US link
Do Kwon’s extradition to South Korea and the US has been approved by a Montenegro court link
South Korea will begin a digital currency pilot in late 2024 with 100,000 citizens tipped to join the experiment link
Foxconn founder Terry Gou has withdrawn from the race to be Taiwan president—there’s been significant pressure on the company and its presence in China, from Mainlan authorities, should he have stood link
Crypto giant OKX has applied for Hong Kong licence, becoming the first major exchange to go take advantage of the city’s virtual asset scheme link
Rest of Asia
There have been protests and court appeals in Nepal's as TikTok fans decried the government’s ban on app link
Uber slashes fees in Bangladesh as drivers keep taking rides offline link
A look at how North Koreans use fake names and mock interview scripts to land remote IT work for cash link
North Korea’s Lazarus targets CyberLink users in supply-chain attack link
A rebel group in northern Myanmar is preparing to lay siege to the city of Laukkaing—a hub of the country’s flourishing cyber-scamming industry that has drawn criticism from Beijing link
When the Three Brotherhood Alliance, a coalition of three ethnic militias opposed to the Myanmar junta, announced their offensive late last month, they singled out doing away with the online scam compounds that proliferate along the border with China as one of the goals of the operation.
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