Why the rise of bitcoin could be the first shot in a currency revolution


Oliver Dobson lives in a town outside of Canada’s financial nerve centre, a nearly three-hour drive from Toronto. How he earns his living is worlds apart from the traditional business of Bay Street.

For the past few years, Dobson has been trading in cryptocurrencies, stockpiling a horde of digital coins that have suddenly skyrocketed in price. In the real world, he lives off of cash savings, but on the Internet, he works in myriad ways to harvest these tokens.

He considers it his full-time job.

“I’m very frugal with my money,” Dobson said. “I focus my time stocking up on these coins, so that when they explode [in price], I can take advantage of it.”

Prices for these cryptocurrencies, which have less familiar names like ether and nano, are exploding because they’re riding on the coattails of bitcoin, which has been on a feverish run. The going rate has catapulted from about $9,000 per bitcoin a year ago to a peak of roughly $58,000 in late February, according to CoinDesk.

The tidal wave has showered digital wealth on Dobson and other Canadians with a stake in the game, while attracting large players from Wall Street like never before. 

Bitcoin’s flirtation with mainstream acceptance and the gravity-defying climb in the price — along with some white-knuckle dips — have made headlines around the world and even captured the attention of the doubters. 

Underneath the mania is a potential sea change in the world of finance that observers say was made possible by a global pandemic. And what’s at stake is nothing less than a war for the future of money.

But there are plenty of skeptics. They warn bitcoin is a highly speculative investment play with no real value backing it up and that investors run the risk of crushing losses.

Oliver Dobson estimates banks handle only 10 or 20 per cent of his finances. He says he manages the rest in crypto networks. (Submitted by Oliver Dobson)

Create money out of thin air’

The rally has made Dobson’s seemingly bizarre occupation all the more lucrative. Among other methods, he said he uses bitcoin to buy other digital coins on crypto exchanges and sell them when they rise in price. He also keeps his eye out for so-called airdrops, where crypto startups release free tokens or coins as part of a marketing stunt.

“If you’re asking me, how do you make your money? I guess in a way, you just go try random stuff and they might just create money out of thin air and hand you some.”

The new wave of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies has its share of colourful characters. It also has some heavy hitters from legacy finance.

Wealthy investors and big institutions, such as PayPal Holdings Inc., Mastercard Inc., Visa Inc. and Tesla Inc., are embracing bitcoin in various ways, signalling broader approval of crypto for the first time. 

The 2018 rout

To understand how this happened, and what it all means, it’s helpful to look back at the last bitcoin wave, which ended when investors watched vast sums of wealth get wiped out in a brutal crash.

Invented as an alternative to national currencies in the depths of the financial crisis in 2009, bitcoin enjoyed one of its sharpest climbs almost a decade later, in 2017. The going rate escalated from less than $3,000 per coin to nearly $20,000 in six months.

This bitcoin boom was driven not by big institutions like banks and pension funds, but by amateur, regular investors making a bet on new technology, said Alex McDougall, the managing director of portfolio management at the bitcoin and digital asset fund manager 3iQ in Toronto.

People were drawn to an alternative to the legacy banking system, McDougall said. Bitcoin and its underlying technology presented a possible end-run around these gatekeepers, allowing people to do their own banking without a large financial institution.

“We saw this potential move towards a radically open world and an entire new generation of wealth could be created in an entirely different type of market participant,” McDougall said. 

Monty Kohli, a 25-year-old cryptocurrency investor, says he believes in the ethos of decentralized finance and continues to have money tied up in digital coins. (Submitted by Monty Kohli)

“We also saw a ton of scams and fraud and a bunch of, quite frankly, B.S. that sprung up around the market.”

The price of bitcoin ultimately crashed in 2018, dropping more than 80 per cent in a year. Left in the ashes were people who lost their life savings.

Monty Kohli, a cryptocurrency investor in his early 20s at the time, didn’t face catastrophic losses, but still watched up to $8,000 in wealth disappear. Despite the setback, he believes in the ethos of decentralized finance and continues to have money invested in digital coins, but it’s money he said he can afford to lose.

Now 25, Kohli said he’s a bitcoin banker. He said he loans out tokens in a secondary, crypto market where he collects interest, though he maintains a day job working in the finance department of a Toronto company.

“My time horizon for investing is quite long and so that’s where I can also afford to take some risk in my portfolio,” he said.

While long-time core believers like Kohli remain in the game, some bigwigs on Wall Street are suddenly stepping in from the sidelines. And that’s part of what makes this latest bitcoin wave so different.

COVID-19 fuelling the latest bitcoin rally

“There is relentless demand,” said Edward Moya, a New York-based senior market analyst with the currency trading company Oanda Corp. “What we’re starting to see is Wall Street, Main Street are really embracing the crypto world. Even when we have significant sell-off days, there is still strong demand, and it’s global.”

Moya said the arguments in favour of an alternative to government-issued currency haven’t changed all that much, but critical conditions have shifted in the past year, making that case more persuasive. 

“If we did not have COVID, we would not be talking about bitcoin right now,” he said.

Central banks around the world have been pumping trillions of dollars into their economies to help them survive crippling lockdowns and various restrictions meant to control the spread of COVID-19.

A major concern with all the pandemic-related stimulus is that it threatens to ‘devalue or debase’ national currencies, said Gavin Brown, a senior lecturer and associate professor of financial technology at the University of Liverpool. (Gavin Brown)

A major concern with all of that stimulus is that it threatens to “devalue or debase” national currencies, said Gavin Brown, a senior lecturer and associate professor of financial technology at the University of Liverpool. “The purchasing power is less because, quite simply, there’s more of it and therefore it’s worth less.”

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is “not controlled by a central bank; it doesn’t have any domicile; doesn’t have any formal governance structure like you would expect with a company or a nation state,” Brown said.

“Instead, the supply of bitcoins is controlled by mathematical code and computer code, which means that the supply side of bitcoin is known at all times. It will never be more than 21 million [coins in circulation].”

Critical infrastructure allows for big investments

Cash was already on the decline for years, while the pandemic has accelerated demand for fast and convenient digital payments, analysts at the investment bank J.P. Morgan said in a recent report.

“The pandemic has boosted demand for digital services and also for ‘alternative’ currencies as multiple rounds of stimulus, accommodative monetary policy, and excess savings have boosted money supply, leading to record inflows into bitcoin investment vehicles.”

Critical storage infrastructure is one development making cryptocurrency more accessible to institutional investors. Here, an illustration of bitcoin’s logo stands on a PC motherboard. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

Another important change is that critical storage infrastructure required to hold large sums of bitcoin for institutional investors is now available. Tesla revealed in early February it had bought $1.5 billion US in bitcoin, something that “would have been almost impossible just a couple of years ago due to the lack of institutional controls and infrastructure at play,” Brown said.

It’s not only easier for some large institutions to invest, the academic said, it’s also more publicly acceptable — entirely different than the 2017 surge.

A bet or an investment?

Some bright minds in finance don’t buy all of the enthusiasm. Stephen Poloz, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, said in an interview that bitcoin is more of a speculative investment play than it is a currency. 

“Even the pros who deal in bitcoin often use the word ‘bet’ rather than ‘invest,’ which suggests in our minds it’s sufficiently volatile; it really is close to gambling as opposed to actual investment, since the asset itself has no intrinsic value,” said Poloz, a special advisor at the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt.

“But that doesn’t mean that it can’t become mainstream.”

Stephen Poloz, a special advisor at the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt and a former governor of the Bank of Canada, says bitcoin trading is akin to gambling. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Poloz said the Toronto Stock Exchange took important steps in this direction by listing two bitcoin exchange-traded funds. It means investors can put money into bitcoin under a regulated system of controls that ensure those investments are backed by the coins.

Dobson, the crypto token trader, said the funds traded on the stock market and other developments, such as PayPal’s foray into bitcoin, represent the antithesis of why cryptocurrencies exist in the first place.

“Would you appreciate it if you agreed yesterday to buy a car paying in bitcoin and then you go to pick it up today and it cost you 16 percent more today than yesterday?– Stephen Poloz, former governor of the Bank of Canada

“The whole point of cryptocurrency is that it’s peer-to-peer, decentralized digital currency; it’s immutable, it’s uncensorable, and it’s yours, purely yours,” he said.

“They don’t give you access to withdraw your coins, so you never actually own them.”

Dobson estimates that banks handle only 10 or 20 per cent of his finances and he manages the rest in crypto networks.

“Dollars don’t make more dollars,” he said, meaning he can make higher returns holding onto cryptos than national currencies, “so I keep basically everything I possibly can out of dollars. I do everything in my power to make sure that the amount of Canadian dollars that I’m holding is the smallest amount that I can get away with.”

But Poloz argues bitcoin can’t replace national currencies in part because it takes far longer to process transactions. If, for example, someone used bitcoin to buy a cup of coffee, the drink would likely be cold by the time the payment cleared. While the technology could theoretically improve to make payments faster, he said there is no fundamental value behind the coins, leaving the price vulnerable to wild swings.

“Would you appreciate it if you agreed yesterday to buy a car paying in bitcoin and then you go to pick it up today and it cost you 16 per cent more today than yesterday?” he said. “That’s not the kind of volatility that you can endure in something that is being used for payments.”

‘A real seismic shift’

There is no shortage of predictions of where bitcoin’s latest wave is headed. The financial services firm UBS Wealth Management reportedly warned investors there is little stopping cryptocurrency prices from falling to zero. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she worries about potential investor losses.

People pass in front of a crypto currency ‘Bitcoin Change’ shop near the Grand Bazaar on December 17, 2020 in Istanbul. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

Brown, the fintech academic from the U.K., said there probably will be a correction, or drop, in the price of bitcoin over the coming weeks and months, but he expects the appeal of a decentralized currency won’t disappear.

“It allows them to move money without a payment intermediary,” he said. “The idea of doing banking without a bank … that is a paradigm that flies in the face of not just centuries of financial development but millennia. That’s a real seismic shift.”

Still, Brown doesn’t believe bitcoin will someday dominate global finance. Where this is ultimately headed, he predicts, is a digital currency war.

There are three groups that Brown believes will be competing for supremacy: decentralized coins, like bitcoin; corporate coins, such as one launched by J.P. Morgan and the currency Facebook proposes; and, finally, future digital currencies backed by central banks.

“There’s a three-way fight for the future of money.”



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How natural gas is emerging as both villain and saviour in the climate change battle


Jaeson Cardiff often faces the question whether his industry is good for the environment or merely helping to delay the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels.

Cardiff is the founder of CleanO2, which collects carbon fumes and exhaust from industrial buildings for use in soap and detergents.

At his office in Calgary, he describes how interest in his business has grown exponentially by increased awareness about climate change and the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the past two years, CleanO2 has grown from having one employee to 10, with operations expanding to the U.S. and Japan.

Still, he finds himself at the forefront of the debate about natural gas, which is increasingly characterized as either a saviour or a villain in whether it helps or hurts the environment.

For Cardiff, he sees a definite role for natural gas for years to come.

“It isn’t a case of a steady state industry where they’re just trying to make natural gas the long-term solution; we’re all working together toward trying to decarbonize this industry,” he said.

WATCH | Why there is still a need for natural gas:

There isn’t a low-cost alternative yet for heating industrial buildings and other uses, according to Jaeson Cardiff with CleanO2 1:33

For decades, natural gas was regarded as a clean-burning fuel, especially compared with oil and coal. It’s a reputation the industry is trying to keep intact, but in some recent cases, it’s losing the battle.

For instance, new pipelines are facing stiff opposition throughout North America, including a relatively small project from Pennsylvania to New York, known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline.

Regulators in New York denied a water permit for the proposed project over the potential adverse impacts on the New York Bay. The developer, Williams Companies, said the project failed because of politics.

“That project is a perfect example of where we label and demonize things,” said Alan Armstrong, chief executive of Williams, during the CERAWeek by IHS Markit event this week.

The pipeline would have replaced heating oil with natural gas, which should have reduced emissions and also lowered utility bills, he said.

“We’re really depriving ourselves of a lot of great emission reduction opportunities and cost savings at the same time, and we’re reducing our own reliability in our markets. It just absolutely makes no sense to me,” Armstrong said.

A natural gas production site in Western Canada. (NuVista Energy)

Some describe it as the “tobaccofication” of the industry.

Emissions from burning natural gas are lower than using oil or coal. For instance, coal power plants are being phased out in Alberta in favour of natural gas, which some experts are calling “a climate action success story,” as emissions from the province’s electricity sector are estimated to have fallen nearly 50 per cent from 2015 to 2020.

Still, critics say the overall benefits of natural gas aren’t as good as they are cracked up to be.

It’s largely because of transportation and leaks. When natural gas is moved around the world, there can be emissions from liquifying the fuel and shipping it. There is also concern about methane leaks during production and transportation.

Methane is considered to be 25 times as harmful as carbon dioxide for the atmosphere.

A look at how natural gas is produced, shipped and received around the world. (Supplied by Wartsila)

For those reasons, some have even described natural gas as the “new coal.”

“New studies have shown there is significantly more fugitive gas than studies showed five years ago, and the gas is also a bigger contributor to climate change than was understood,” said James Browning, with the Global Energy Monitor.

In Canada, the natural gas industry could grow in the coming years as one liquified natural gas export facility is under construction and a second could break ground later this year.

Some natural gas pipeline companies in the country are beginning to blend hydrogen with natural gas for home heating, as a way to reduce emissions.

The role of natural gas in the future may ultimately depend on different parts of the world, according to Ed Whittingham, a Calgary-based clean energy consultant and former executive director of the Pembina Institute, an environmental policy think-tank, in an interview.

Without question, he said, natural gas will continue to be used in Canada for heating homes and providing electricity. However, it’s a limited, interim role considering the country needs more non-emitting sources of electricity.

“That can include natural gas, provided we’re not taking the CO2 that is a byproduct, and putting that up into the atmosphere,” he said, pointing to the use of carbon capture technology to ensure the emissions are stored underground or used in cement, plastics and other products.

Natural gas may be more useful in developing countries that don’t have the same hydroelectric, solar or wind resources as Canada.

“Let’s face it, fossil fuels are still cheap,” he said.

“Right now, the massive struggle is how do we lift, not just hundreds of millions, but billions of people out of poverty in the world and provide them with access to the affordable electricity that we’ve all come to rely on and use to power our lifestyles? How do we provide that to them in a non-emitting way?”

That’s why the world’s use of natural gas in the future will depend on how much energy demand grows, the cost of each type of energy and how quickly technology advances, among other factors.

WATCH | The future of natural gas around the world:

Why demand for natural gas may not grow in the future, according to Ed Whittingham, a Calgary-based clean energy consultant 1:12

For Cardiff, with Clean02, even though he’s certain natural gas will still be relied upon for decades to come, he’s already beginning to research how his business will adapt to make soap and other products if hydrogen use ever takes off.

“There are a lot of companies that are currently moving in that direction and we’re among them. We have some technologies that we’re developing to help transition into that hydrogen economy. It just seems like a natural fit,” he said.



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Who is the Bundaberg farmer turned billionaire, net worth


An Australian farmer who cultivated a $6 billion financial empire is facing the rapid unravelling of his company, lender Greensill Capital.

Lex Greensill’s business had more than $10 billion frozen by Credit Suisse, with the move threatening more than 7000 Aussie jobs.

In a deal reportedly worth $128 million, Greensill Capital is scrambling to sell off “large parts” of its business to US private equity firm Apollo Global Management, according to the Financial Times and Bloomberg News.

Based in the UK, Greensill Capital, which was founded in 2011, could be forced to file for insolvency, despite previously flagging a sharemarket float later this year.

But who is the Aussie billionaire behind the business?

RELATED:Unlikely way three Bundaberg farmers made $1.21 billion

WHO IS LES GREENSILL?

The 44-year-old banker from Bundaberg grew up on Australia’s largest sweet potato farm, with his parents and two brothers. The farm was established by his grandfather Roy in 1947 and also grew sugarcane, melon and peanuts. But business was tough as the family sometimes waited two years to be paid for crops.

The family still runs a large farming operation today, with watermelon, sweet potatoes, cane and other crops spread across four properties and 100 staff who help with exporting produce throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Greensill graduated from Kepnock State High School and went on to study law by correspondence through the Queensland University of Technology, kicking off his career as a solicitors’ clerk for a local firm. His career took him to Sydney and then on to London.

The father-of-two met his wife Vicky at Bundaberg Hospital where she was working as a doctor. The family have been based in the UK for a decade, with their home an old vicarage in a rural village in Cheshire, about 300km northwest of London, reported The Australian.

In 2019, Mr Greensill splashed out $4.1 million to buy a property dubbed “The Glass House,’’ a three-level beachfront home near Bundaberg.

HOW MUCH IS HE WORTH?

Alongside his two brothers, Peter and Andrew, their personal fortune was worth a combined $2.13 billion, according to the Australian Financial Review, which grew by 76 per cent in just one year.

HOW DID HE RISE UP?

The first foray into supply chain finance – the basis of his now ailing business – was working for the Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, where he designed a payment code to ensure farmers were paid quicker.

He upped stumps to Sydney in his early 20s and was employed by a number of start-ups involved in the dotcom boom.

A move to London at 24 saw him embark on business school studies before landing his first gig at American investment bank Morgan Stanley to launch its supply-chain finance business. He had a stint at Citibank during the GFC where he rose to the position of managing director of its supply chain finance business for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Mr Greensill went on to become an advisor to former British Prime Minister David Cameron about small business and also did some work for former US president Barack Obama.

HOW DID HE MAKE HIS BILLIONS?

He made his money with Greensill Capital which he founded in 2011.

Greensill Capital was set up to solve the problem for small businesses that wait an extraordinarily long time for their invoices to be paid. The company would come in and pay the invoices upfront, but with a discount, and then chase buyers for the full amount. It has provided $143 billion worth of finance to more than 10 million customers worldwide.

In 2019, it reported its revenue had increased to $476 million in 2019 up from $270 million the previous year, but profit fell from $74 million to $65 million.

Mr Greensill has likened the company’s model as making “finance fair”.

“The truth is all of it started with watching the pain that my parents experienced dealing with wholesalers and with big corporates buying fruit and vegetables from them,” Ms Greensill previously told the ABC.

But he never expected to become a billionaire.

“I had big dreams and I’m obviously thrilled but I would be lying if I said this was what I expected,” Mr Greensill told the Bundaberg News-Mail in 2019.

“I had an ambition that’s shared with my brothers, we’re all partners together, to make a difference and I guess we have in that way been able to grow something that makes a difference to hundreds of thousands of people.”

WHAT’S HIS BRUSH WITH ROYALTY?

Gracing the halls of Buckingham Palace in 2017, Mr Greensill was awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the economy with Prince Charles draping the medal around his neck. A CBE is awarded for prominent national or regional roles and to those making distinguished or notable contributions in their own specific areas of activity.

“Mum never got to go to my graduation, so in a way today was the graduation that my mother was never able to go to, at Buckingham Palace,” Mr Greensill told journalists at the time.

Other people who have received the honour include famous physicist Stephen Hawking, House actor Hugh Laurie, English rugby union player Jonny Wilkinson and The Crown actor Helena Bonham Carter.

HOW DID MR GREENSILL’S COMPARE HIS COMPANY TO AMAZON?

“We see ourselves as the Amazon of the working capital world … We’ve come a long way, but the marketplace we play in is enormous,” Mr Greensill told the Australian Financial Review.

But he has been quick to point out that farming remained at his core. “I’m a farmer at heart. Whenever I’m home I jump on a tractor and have a play. I don’t think of myself as a corporate titan,” he told the newspaper in 2018.

But suddenly this week, it has all come crashing down.

The group has sought safe harbour protection under Australian insolvency laws, which would allow it to trade while potentially insolvent.



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Centrelink JobKeeper ending, 250,000 Australian jobs expected to be lost


Up to a quarter of a million Aussies could lose their jobs in a wave of business collapses as JobKeeper ends this month, experts have warned.

The Federal Government will finally pull the plug on its $90 billion wage subsidy scheme on March 28, as the Australian economy begins to stand on its own two feet after the devastation caused by COVID-19 lockdowns.

But a leading labour market economist warns that the withdrawal of the wage subsidy will wipe out thousands of businesses that until now had been kept afloat by the scheme.

“My best guesstimate is that 125,000 to 250,000 persons might lose work when the program finishes at the end of March,” Professor Jeff Borland from the University of Melbourne wrote in his labour market snapshot on Wednesday.

Prof Borland stresses that forecasting potential JobKeeper job losses is extremely difficult.

“Suppose that the number of JobKeeper recipients stayed at 1.55 million (the most recent available figure as of December 1), that the proportion of revenue lost by business receiving JobKeeper was 35 per cent, and that the number of unviable jobs is in proportion to revenue decreases,” he wrote.

“This would suggest employment losses could be 550,000 persons.”

But that number “needs to be treated as a pretty unlikely upper bound,” he said.

“It doesn’t take too much to change for the number to look more like my guesstimate based on the (Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Labour Force Survey) data. For example, if the average revenue loss of business receiving JobKeeper was only 15 per cent by end of March, it would mean 235,000 persons would lose employment.”

Prof Borland told news.com.au while his analysis was “rudimentary”, it was an important topic for policy and there “hadn’t been much commentary on it”.

It comes as Nine Newspapers notes that, based on a review of Australian Securities and Investments Commission notices, just three companies have used the Federal Government’s new insolvency processes designed to help financially struggling but otherwise viable small businesses stay afloat.

CreditorWatch chief executive Patrick Coghlan told news.com.au that based on historical insolvency trends comparing the number that took place in 2020 versus 2019, there would likely be at least 3000 to 4000 businesses that go under after March.

Last year 4943 companies entered administration, or about half the normal number.

“There will definitely be a shock come end of JobKeeper,” he said, but added he did not think it would be the “tsunami of insolvencies” originally predicted at the start of the pandemic.

“There is definitely going to be a bit of a reset given there were thousands of companies that didn’t go into administration that would have in a standard year. That 3000 to 4000 is just companies that go into administration in a normal year – I think there are (going to be) COVID-affected administrations on top of that.”

But Mr Coghlan said it was difficult to predict what the additional number of purely COVID-related administrations would be.

He said we was “not expecting them all to happen in April”.

“I still think it will be a gradual increase back up to pre-COVID levels … but I think it’s a logical conclusion that there were companies that would have gone into administration that haven’t, and companies that were affected by COVID,” he said.

Mr Coghlan said JobKeeper had been a “fantastic policy initiative” that had saved “hundreds of thousands, if not millions of jobs”, but it was time for it to end.

“I’m very hopeful that come April the economy’s in a much better position, hopefully no lockdowns, people are getting out there, restrictions being eased and money being spent,” he said.

“If you extend (JobKeeper) you start to potentially cause more issues, because there are companies out there that need to be allowed to fail.”

One unknown factor, Mr Coghlan said, was how aggressive ASIC and the Australian Taxation Office would be in enforcement.

Chris Baskerville, partner at insolvency firm Jirsch Sutherland, agreed.

“The big unknown in all this, the sleeping giant, is the ATO,” he said.

“We’re starting to now see creditors filing for winding up of companies. We even saw an ATO wind-up which we all got semi-excited about, but it was only one. We’ve seen 17 companies apply for temporary restructuring relief. Personally I’ve had more inquiries in January than I almost did for the entire period of October, November, December.”

Mr Baskerville said the government stimulus had been sweeping.

“They basically paid for our staff wages, they got reprieve and abatement from our landlords, we got back our taxes to a certain extent, creditors practically couldn’t sue a director, the ATO stopped enforcing and the banks did the same, they just navigated and pushed people through to the new year,” he said.

“Obviously now there’s a rollback period – JobKeeper’s rolling back, there’s no way we’re going to get any more taxes back, landlords now want their money and the banks will soon be asking for their money.”

As for which industries will be affected, Mr Baskerville predicts insolvencies will start to rise “in the exact order they were impacted last year”.

“Personally I’m currently trading six gyms, all of them have got landlord problems, franchisor problems, trying to recover from the pandemic and they just couldn’t get on top of the debts,” he said.

“I think we’re starting to see hospitality and food retail take a bit of a hit.”

Indeed, one food retailer last month announced that it would be shutting up shop the minute JobKeeper ends.

Paul Siderovski, owner of Newscastle-based chain Yoghurt Land, said he would be permanently closing his 11 stores at the end of this month, putting about 200 people out of work.

He told the Newcastle Herald the decision was “heartbreaking”.

“In spite of the best efforts of all staff, we are no longer able to move forward into the future, with sales being down over 30 per cent due to COVID-19,” he said.

A spokesman for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg referred news.com.au to his February 24 speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Together with those that transitioned off the first phase of program, this shows that around 2.7 million individuals across around 650,000 businesses have now graduated from JobKeeper,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“As a result Treasury now expects the number of individuals relying on the payment to be 1.1 million in the March quarter – a reduction of 200,000 compared to the MYEFO estimate of 1.3 million. Of the 1.1 million people expected to be on JobKeeper in the March quarter, we are expecting the overwhelming majority to remain in their existing jobs following the conclusion of the program.”

In that speech, the Treasurer noted this was supported by the Reserve Bank, “which is forecasting that the unemployment rate will continue to fall from 6.4 per cent in January to reach 6 per cent by the year’s end”.

Treasury has estimated about 100,000 jobs could be lost when JobKeeper ends but the Federal Government has previously said record levels of household and business savings amassed during the pandemic would drive the recovery.

Mr Frydenberg said in January the Coalition’s economic parachute had ensured Australia avoided an economic catastrophe.

“The unprecedented economic support provided by the Morrison Government during the crisis means that, even as JobKeeper and other temporary emergency support measures taper off, a fiscal cliff is avoided,” he said.

“With an additional $200 billion sitting on household and business balance sheets compared to the start of last year, there is a huge sum of money available to be spent across the economy helping to create jobs and maintain the momentum of our economic recovery.”

Labor had called for JobKeeper to be extended past March, arguing hospitality and tourism were lagging behind other sectors.

The big question is whether there will be a soft landing, or if the can has simply been kicked down the road.

Mr Baskerville notes that during the GFC, it took effectively a full year – from the beginning of 2008 to early 2009 – before it really “hit the fan” and the full effects were seen.

“I guess if we have been stimulating the economy right up until March 28, one thought is we pretty much have to wait a year until you see the full effect,” he said.

“I don’t think we’re going to get the cliff, the tsunami I was predicting – I think the Government has stimulated the economy enough to avoid that – but I think we’ll start to see a ramp-up potentially towards the end of this year.”

He added: “I just can’t help but think we haven’t seen the full negative impact of the pandemic. We’re still waiting.”

frank.chung@news.com.au

– with NCA NewsWire



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Meghan Markle, Prince Harry in copyright war over Archewell deodorant name


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are embroiled in a legal dispute with a small Filipino business owner over his Archewell deodorant name, which he says he’s willing to “fight to the death” to keep.

The royals, who set up their foundation – named after their young son Archie – after relocating to LA from Britain last year, are disputing the use of the term ‘Archewell Harvatera’ with a man named Victor Martin Soriano.

Cobblestone Lane LLC, which represents Harry and Meghan and is based in Beverly Hills, is pursuing legal action over the name of his brand of natural deodorants, first reported by World Trademark Review.

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Mr Soriano applied for the name in July 2020 in the Philippines, months after the royals launched their foundation in April, and has since shared his company’s official theme song and choreography online.

The Sun has contacted Archewell for comment, but has not received a response.

Victor Soriano told The Sun exclusively: “If the Queen asks me to withdraw, I will do it promptly, no questions asked.

“We’re really nice people here. This affects me but I’m willing to fight to the death out of principle.

“I’m waiting for their legal response. There will be a showdown. Gosh, I already feel like Roxi Hart [on trial] in Chicago.

“The foundation is OK, but it’s how she [Meghan] treats other people.

“I think I should win because I’m a small guy from a poor small country about to be swallowed by a greedy monster. I must succeed in this fight.”

RELATED: Kate’s biggest fear about Meghan tell-all

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Mr Soriano says to date he is the only person in the world to have filed for cosmetics and fragrances for Archewell – which Meghan and Harry had not planned to do.

“If [Meghan] wanted the name, she should have said so earlier,” he also told the WTR in an interview.

“Is she sour graping? Change of mind or heart perhaps? Then she should do her own filing, not go after me since I’m 100 per cent legal and within my rights.”

He said Meghan, 39, “must be taught a lesson” and has shared proof of the dispute in a series of furious tweets, saying the couple “won’t talk to me”.

“You bet I can slug it out with them when it comes to legality, which I will,” he said.

“Fresh from her legal victories, I expect Meghan to take me head-on.”

Asked how he will respond if the Sussexes win, he said: “I would probably appeal, we’ll see. It depends on them and the aura of this whole thing.”

Cobblestone Lane LLC has reportedly requested “additional time” and has until March 25 to lodge its full opposition argument.

The Sun revealed in June last year the couple’s trademark application for their non-profit had hit a bump in the road because they didn’t sign the papers, it was “too vague” and they didn’t pay all the fees required.

The ambitious pair submitted their original plans with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on March 3, but a later filing showed they’d amended the application.

RELATED: Meghan to make ‘very serious’ revelation

Meanwhile, Meghan and Harry have removed the photo of Princess Diana from their Archewell website as part of its makeover.

The page is now printed with the words, “Compassion in Action.”

A new introduction reads: “Welcome to Archewell. Through our non-profit work, as well as creative activations, we drive systemic cultural change across all communities, one act of compassion at a time.”

The couple’s Archewell logo was also tweaked to include the words ‘Service. Compassion. Action. Community.’

The move comes after the Queen said they could not continue with “responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service”.

Buckingham Palace is now bracing itself for the couple’s ‘bombshell’ sit-down with chat show queen Oprah this weekend.

According to a report in The Times on Friday, royal aides approached the newspaper to give their version of a story they’re worried will be whitewashed during the couple’s interview.

They claim Meghan was subject to a bullying complaint in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the couple’s communications secretary at the time and one of Meghan’s most senior aides.

The complaint reportedly said the Duchess had already driven two personal assistants out of the household by constantly complaining about their work and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member.

A spokesman for the Sussexes told the newspaper Meghan was a victim of a “smear campaign”.

The Duchess was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma,” the spokesman added.

This story originally appeared on The Sun and is reproduced here with permission



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