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March 24 2015

Japan signaled that it could join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) after all if certain conditions were met satisfactorily.


This is despite the United States already expressing concerns regarding AIIB and its capability to pass social and environmental standards and China's already growing diplomatic influence in the region. Still, about 30 nations, including major EU members, participated in this economic project.


Now, even the notable allies of the US -- South Korea, Australia and Japan -- are reportedly reconsidering.


Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso announced that they are considering joining the AIIB if they can confirm that it has a "credible mechanism for providing loans". However, other Japanese senior officials remain doubtful if participating in a China-led bank could be truly advantageous.


"We have been asking to ensure debt sustainability taking into account its impact on environment and society. We could (consider) if these issues are guaranteed. We'll give it careful consideration from diplomatic and economics viewpoints. There could be a chance that we would go inside and discuss. But so far we have not heard any responses," commented Aso.


AIIB is also seen as a competitor of ADB (Asian Development Bank) which is a regional financial institution based in the Philippines. It is basically dominated by the US and Japan, with its leader customarily coming from the latter's finance ministry or the Bank of Japan.


The former president of ADB and current BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda cautiously said, "There are huge needs, demands for infrastructure investment in Asia. On the other hand, the World Bank and ADB have been helping countries in Asia to improve infrastructure for the last 50 years."


Despite being a China-led financial institution that the US is warning against, AIIB got Tokyo concerned of missing out on opportunity for more regional participation, reports Corliss Online Financial Mag.


Meanwhile, Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey said participating in AIIB has the potential to benefit local companies and should not adversely affect their relationship with the US. At any rate, he added that a final decision has yet to be made, although Corliss Online Financial Mag got reports that Australia could decide to formally join this week with as much as USD 2.3 billion in investment.


"There is a lot of merit in it, but we want to make sure there are proper governance procedures. That there's transparency, that no one country is able to control the entity. And because it's operating in our region, in our neighbourhood, it is important that Australia fully understand and look at participating in this Bank," said Hockey.

March 05 2014

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong ZTE to launch new phones at Barcelona Mobile World Congress                         

Chinese mobile phone maker ZTE announced on Tuesday that it will use the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week to launch its new Grand Memo II, as well as the new ZTE Open C smartphone which runs on Firefox OS 1.3, and a new MiFavor 2.3 interface.

The company's general director of mobiles and executive vice-president of the corporation, Adam Zeng commented that this year the company was working to collaborate more closely with its clients throughout the world and developing products.

He added that at the 2014 Mobile World Congress, which opens in Barcelona on Feb. 24 and closes on Feb. 27, the company will present these new devices in collaboration with Mozilla and Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, which is the biggest network provider in Spain and which has a massive presence in Latin America and other parts of the world.

"We are certain 2014 will be our year," said Zeng.

ZTE will use the congress to show off its full range of mobile devices, among which are the Grand S II smartphone, the Blad range and the Nubia range, which in December last year outsold Apple, Samsung and Nokia on the Jingdong Mall online store in China.

The company will also be displaying devices for mobile hotspots and a new smartwatch.

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong ZTE to launch new phones at Barcelona Mobile World Congress

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March 04 2014

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong World's first physical bitcoin store opens in HK         

The world's first physical retail store selling the controversial virtual currency bitcoin has opened in Hong Kong.

The 40-square-meter shop, located in the western district of Sai Ying Pun and operated by Asia Nexgen Bitcoin Exchange, officially opened for business on Feb. 28. The local exchange holds a money service operator license from Hong Kong's customs and excise department.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority views bitcoin as a virtual commodity as opposed to a virtual currency, which therefore enables Asia Nexgen to accept payments to acquire bitcoin the commodity, not bitcoin the currency.

Customers must first provide an ID card and proof of address to comply with customs and excuse rules on money laundering before they can make a transaction at the store through their digital wallets.

The first customer to the store following the ribbon-cutting ceremony spent $HK100 (US$12.90) to purchase roughly 0.022 bitcoins, according to market rates listed on the US-based CoinBase exchange at the time.

Ken Lo, co-founder and CEO of Asia Nexgen, said the store could help raise the popularity of bitcoin. "The biggest issue people have right now is buying the bitcoin. People have to put money in, trade it through an exchange online," he said.

"Now, you walk into the store, hand over your cash and send the bitcoin to your digital wallet," he added.

The store opened on the same day that Japanese bitcoin exchange MtGox was forced to file for bankruptcy protection after claiming to have lost nearly half a billion dollars' worth of bitcoins in an alleged theft last Tuesday.

Lo said the MtGox debacle was only "a drop in the bucket" and that there is no "shortage of demand" for bitcoins at the moment.

Bitcoins were trading at around US$572 on Coinbase on Sunday.

Late last year, China's central bank stated that bitcoin was a digital currency and prohibited third-party payment processors from providing bitcoin transaction services.

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong World's first physical bitcoin store opens in HK


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March 01 2014

Corliss Online Group Financial Mag: Can Hong Kong Solve Scotland’s Currency ‘Fankle’?

Scottish nationalists are in a quandary: how to dissolve the three-century bond with the United Kingdom while preserving their monetary link with the British pound.

And Hong Kong may provide the answer.

Nationalists want to retain the British pound if they win September’s independence vote, but U.K. political leaders ruled out sharing sterling earlier this month. They fear taxpayers would have to back Scotland in times of economic trouble, much as shared use of the euro forced Germany to bail out Greece.

Ditch the union if you want, but say goodbye to sterling, is the message from London.

This creates a bit of a fankle – a Scottish term for a state of disarray, even panic – for the Scottish nationalists. But they may have another card to play.

A currency board could allow Scotland to effectively keep the pound even without consent from the Bank of England, said John Greenwood, the chief economist at Invesco who helped design Hong Kong’s dollar peg, which has held for 31 years.

“If Scotland were to set up a currency board for a Scottish pound that remained at parity (1:1) with the English pound, the trade, current and capital account balances of Scotland would remain broadly unchanged, unless there was some major change in the economic circumstances of either country,” he said in an email.

This arrangement would require sufficient foreign reserves in British pounds to fully cover the amount of currency in circulation and the total held on deposit by commercial banks for interbank clearing transactions. Hong Kong, for example, holds $312.2 billion. See more Financial News

Some naysayers argue it might be hard for Scotland to build up such reserves.

Nomura, in a research report, contends that raising the required amount of reserves could be a “painful” process for Scotland. The bank asks how much of the U.K’s foreign reserves an independent Scotland would be entitled to in the event of a breakup, estimating that a share proportional to the size of the Scottish economy would only provide $4.5 billion, or about 7% of the total reserves needed for a currency board. Scotland may also have to negotiate to draw down its share of the U.K.’s reserves held by the IMF.

A currency board might also make the Scottish pound vulnerable to speculative attack. Defending a currency board against short sellers can be politically painful, said Joseph Yam, a research fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who as chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, fought off speculators including George Soros’ Quantum Fund during the Asian Financial Crisis.

“In the case of capital outflow, for whatever reasons, interest rates could rocket to very high levels and severe pain correspondingly inflicted on those shorting the currency as well as the economy; the latter may be so politically unacceptable as to lead to political pressure to abandon the currency board arrangement,” he said in an email.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority declined to comment on whether it had been consulted over a Scottish currency board.

Britain has been beaten by speculators before.  George Soros’ attacks on “Black Wednesday” in 1992 forced the U.K. to break its fixed exchange rate with the precursor of the euro, trashing the economic credibility of the British conservative government, which would spend 13 years out of power.

The Bank of England hiked interest rates from 8.8% to as much as 15% before capitulating. Current Prime Minister David Cameron, then aged 25, worked behind the scenes on the government’s policy response.

Mr. Greenwood agrees that speculative attacks would be possible. However, he said, “If Scotland were to follow the disciplines of Hong Kong in relation to fiscal policy, banking soundness, and the avoidance of leverage then there should be nothing to fear, and the Scottish pound could maintain parity with the English pound.”

Hong Kong defended its peg during the Asian crisis by buying up HK$118 billion of stocks and index futures, a move which later drew praise from Mr. Soros himself.

The above article is a repost from WSJ

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