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Blockchain Bites: Bitcoin’s Steep Sell-Off, Pornhub’s Crypto Payments, Twitter’s Latest Hack

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Pornhub will accept BTC and LTC payments, a nonprofit is calling upon Coinbase to be more transparent and credit default swaps are coming to the Ethereum blockchain. 

You’re reading Blockchain Bites, the daily roundup of the most pivotal stories in blockchain and crypto news, and why they’re significant. You can subscribe to this and all of CoinDesk’s newsletters here. 

Top shelf

Porn payments
Pornhub, the popular adult entertainment site, has added bitcoin (BTC) and litecoin (LTC) payment options for its Pornhub Premium product. The company is an example of legal, though untraditional, online businesses struggling with centralized payment processors: PayPal has blocked payments to the site without explanation, CoinDesk’s EU News Editor Daniel Palmer reports. The company has accepted verge (XVG) since 2018, and has recently added support for dollar-linked stablecoin tether (USDT). 

Crypto for taxes
People and businesses in the Swiss canton of Zug, home to “Crypto Valley,” will be able to pay their taxes in bitcoin (BTC) or ether (ETH) beginning next February. Authorities have partnered with the Zug-based crypto broker and custodian Bitcoin Suisse, which will convert cryptocurrency payments into Swiss francs and hand them over to the tax office. The canton will accept tax payments up to 100,000 CHF (around $109,000) in those cryptos, though no partial payment will be accepted. In a statement Thursday, Zug Finance Director Heinz Tannler said the move would help to normalize the use of cryptocurrencies in everyday life.

Another Twitter hack
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has become the latest victim of a Twitter hack meant to siphon cryptocurrency from unsuspecting users. A Twitter account of Modi’s personal website known as the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was hacked and began soliciting 2.5 million followers to donate to the relief fund using cryptocurrency, the Nikkei Asian Review reported and Twitter confirmed. The social media giant is “not aware of additional accounts being impacted,” a Twitter representative said. Modi’s hack follows a high-profile breach that compromised several accounts, including those of U.S. Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Kanye West and CoinDesk. The alleged perpetrators of that attack have been apprehended.

Full disclosure
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling upon Coinbase to release regular transparency reports related to the government and law enforcement requests for information it receives. In a Wednesday blog post, the digital advocacy nonprofit said financial data is one of the “most sensitive types of information” a user produces. The way Coinbase responds to government requests could “have a huge impact on what types of speech thrive online,” CoinDesk’s Sebastian Sinclair reports. In June, Coinbase initiated procurement deals with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), for its investigations tool called “Coinbase Analytics,” which traces transactions conducted across the exchange ecosystem. 

COVID-19 relief
The Congressional Blockchain Caucus is urging President Donald Trump and other federal officials to adopt blockchain solutions to boost COVID-19 relief efforts. In a Wednesday letter, lawmakers said blockchain technology can help identify and authenticate individuals set to receive government benefits, streamline supply chains and create a registry of medical professionals. They further cited blockchain’s strong encryption mechanism that protects sensitive data. The U.S. government’s response to a pandemic has been a case study in governmental inefficiency, with states duking it out over critical supplies. Last April, 11 representatives signed a letter calling on the U.S Treasury Department to consider blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) in streamlining the distribution of stimulus funds to citizens across the nation.

Quick bites

At stake

Tether financialization
Credit default swaps (CDS), known for their role in the 2008 recession, have come to the Ethereum blockchain. Derivatives exchange Opium has introduced CDS for the dollar-linked stablecoin tether (USDT), providing insurance to buyers in case Tether, the issuer of the stablecoin, defaults. 

Tether, a key component of the crypto marketplace and fifth largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, claims a 1-to-1 backing with U.S. dollars. This is often contested.

Tether revealed in April 2019 that only 74% of USDT was backed by “cash and cash equivalents.” The firm later said USDT was once again fully backed in a November 2019 retort to an academic paper that blamed the stablecoin for the 2017 bitcoin bubble. 

Further, the firm behind the stablecoin is under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office for alleged misappropriation of funds.

Opium’s CDS product finally lets the controversial crypto’s critics and defenders “put their money where their mouths are,” CoinDesk’s Will Foxley reports. 

A CDS is a “transfer of the insurance from people who know and are confident to people who’d like to be insured. Derivatives are just about transferring the risk. Some people would like to have the risk and get paid, some people would like to pay to get rid of risk,” Opium founder Andrey Belyakov said.

The new CDS tethered to USDT can be customized to pay out under different scenarios, such as the stablecoin falling under a preset value, said Aave founder Stani Kulechov, who is advising Opium.

In this case, a sharp drop in USDT’s price from the usual $1 is used as a proxy for Tether turning out to be insolvent. So if the token fell to 70 cents, the writer of the contract would pay the buyer 30 cents at maturity.

Investors don’t need to hold USDT to purchase this coverage. They can use CDS to bet against the asset, while those who trust Tether to honor its obligations can earn a premium for standing ready to cover defaults.

Paolo Ardoino, chief technology officer at Tether, said through a spokesman: “Tether is solvent. Therefore, this solution is not really interesting to us or our community.”

Market intel

Steep pullback
Bitcoin (BTC) pulled back about $403 to $10,838 early Thursday, deepening a two-day sell-off that pushed the largest cryptocurrency to its lowest point in a month. CoinDesk’s Omkar Godbole previously reported an influx of 92,000 BTC on Wednesday – the biggest-single day rise in 37 days – could deepen bitcoin’s descent. “Inflows surged as people rushed to sell at near $12,000,” Philip Gradwell, chief economist at Chainalysis, tweeted early Thursday. There’s evidence exchanges have not fully absorbed this selloff, hinting at a lack of buyers, which could lead to a profound drop in price. 

Ether options
Ether option contracts listed on Deribit, the largest crypto options exchange, rose to a record high of $507 million on Tuesday. This is possibly due to yield farming, the act of putting crypto holdings to work on decentralized applications to earn more crypto, Godbole reports. Open positions in ether options have surged by 45% from $349 million to $507 million over the past five days and nearly doubled since the end of July, while the total value locked (TVL) in the DeFi applications has surged by over 20% to $8.65 billion in the past five days. 

Tech pod

Hypothetical attack
A recently disclosed vulnerability in popular Trezor and KeepKey hardware wallets would have allowed attackers to hold users’ cryptocurrency for ransom without going anywhere near the device, CoinDesk’s Colin Harper reports. ShiftCrypto, the Swiss company that manufactures the BitBox hardware wallet, has disclosed a potential man-in-the middle ransom attack vector that leverages the two wallet’s optional passphrase feature users can use to unlock their device in lieu of a PIN. Trezor has issued a patch, KeepKey has delayed taking action, though it has not been suggested the hypothetical attack has been carried out. 

Op-ed

DeFi, meet CeFi.
Author of “The Business Blockchain,” William Mougayar thinks centralized finance and decentralized finance should link up for each other’s benefit. “CeFi” will bring users and expertise to DeFi – which will struggle to grow beyond its pen of hardcore users – but must begin thinking like wholesalers and hurry to “pick the DeFi products they want to build on top of,” he writes. “The CeFi market potential is staring DeFi in the face. If CeFi exchanges want to start looking more like full-service financial services institutions, they need to become DeFi’s best distribution channels.”

Podcast corner

Policy shift?
Luke Gromen, founder of the Forest for the Trees consulting firm, joins The Breakdown to discuss his thoughts on Jerome Powell’s Jackson Hole address last week. Is this really a change in policy?

Who won #CryptoTwitter?

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Disclosure

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.





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General Motors (GM) Posts Strong Q2 2021 Earnings Report; Misses Wall Street Expectations

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Despite a strong profit and raising its guidance for the year, General Motors announced second-quarter earnings, which did not meet Wall Street’s estimates.

General Motors (NYSE: GM) posted second-quarter (Q2) earnings of $34.2 billion in revenue and $1.97 in adjusted EPS, which missed Wall Street expectations. In comparison, Wall Street projected that General Motors would hit a $30.9 billion revenue, and a $2.23 adjusted EPS. 

The discrepancies in figures were due to several challenges the automakers have been weathering since last year. They include a $1.3 billion warranty recall deficit, including $800 million from the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Also, its electric vehicles have been recalled twice in the past year due to fire risks.

In addition, GM, just like other automobile companies worldwide, has been grappling with a shortage of semiconductor chips. This led to factory shutdowns and cost the automobile industry billions of dollars in 2021. Only on Tuesday, GM announced plans to shut down its three North American full-size pickup truck assembly plants next week. As a result, the reduced number of available vehicle units produced now cost higher, leading to bigger profits.

General Motors Forecasts

GM Financial forecasted earnings for the year to initially range between $10 billion and $11 billion. The company also forecasted $4.50 to $5.25 per share in adjusted pretax profits. In addition, there was also an adjusted automotive free cash flow of between $1 billion and $2 billion. These forecasts factored in the potential impact of the chip shortage currently plaguing the industry. Consequently, the company projected a drawdown of between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in earnings. 

Despite this, General Motors’ shares rose. Although at the time of this writing, GM’s shares saw a 3% dip during premarket trading to $56.35 a share, the carmakers on Wednesday, raised its full-year guidance to between $11.5 billion and $13.5 billion. This roughly translates to earnings of $5.40 to $6.40 a share, which is a significant increase from $4.50 to $5.25 YoY. Furthermore, the overall compounded value now sits at $11 billion from $10 billion. In the face of strong demand, the car company anticipates its first-half EBIT-adjusted to range between $8.5 billion and $9.5 billion. This represents a rise from an earlier year forecast of $5.5 billion.

GM Earnings in 2020

Last year, General Motors reported a $536 million adjusted pretax loss in the Q2 of 2020. Its revenue was $16.8 billion, and it had a Financial EBT-adjustment of $0.2 billion. A net income loss of $758 million was also reported, and the automakers had to shut down several production plants. This wasn’t surprising and was a similar fate shared by many other companies in the industry in the face of the pandemic.

As a follow-through to its recent quarterly report, company GM CFO Paul Jacobson intends to hold a conference call for investors and analysts to discuss recent developments as well as the company’s growth blueprint.

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Tolu is a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast based in Lagos. He likes to demystify crypto stories to the bare basics so that anyone anywhere can understand without too much background knowledge.
When he’s not neck-deep in crypto stories, Tolu enjoys music, loves to sing and is an avid movie lover.



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Elon Musk, Tim Cook Deny Meeting to Discuss Tesla Acquisition

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Besides Musk, Cook has also owned up to not having met with Musk on no occasion when he appeared on the New York Times Sway Podcast.

Elon Musk, Tim Cook Deny Meeting to Discuss Tesla Acquisition

The claims published in Tim Higgins new book ‘Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century,’ that the Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO and Tim Cook, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) had a meeting to discuss the possible acquisition of the electric automaker has been refuted by both parties.

According to Insideevs, the conversation in which Tim Cook said ‘f*** you’ to Musk via a phone call has been adjudged as false. According to the book from Higgins, a New York Times reporter, the Apple boss called Musk to discuss a possible acquisition deal as far back as 2016. Higgins claims that both CEOs’ discussions fell apart when Musk demanded to continue being the CEO of Apple following the acquisition. The proposition was not well received by Cook who said ‘f*** you’ and hung up the phone.

While there has been a consideration to give up Tesla to Apple as Musk agreed to, that was when the former’s valuation is just about 6% of what it is today. Moreover, Musk said despite requesting to meet with Cook for the takeover consideration, the meeting never actually happened.

“Cook & I have never spoken or written to each other ever. There was a point where I requested to meet with Cook to talk about Apple buying Tesla. There were no conditions of acquisition proposed whatsoever. He refused to meet. Tesla was worth about 6% of today’s value,” Musk revealed via his official Twitter account.

Besides Musk, Cook has also owned up to not having met with Musk on no occasion when he appeared on the New York Times Sway Podcast according to an earlier Bloomberg report.

Elon Musk Says He Had No Interest Running Apple and Tim Cook

As the most valuable automaker in the world by market capitalization, there appear to be no signs that Tesla is up for sale as Musk once intended close a decade ago. Moreso, Elon Musk has said via his Twitter account that he never at any time expressed interest in taking over Apple. Per his words:

“Indeed. Both Cook & I have been clear publicly that we have never spoken or otherwise communicated. I tried to speak to him & he declined. Nor have I ever expressed any interest in running Apple to anyone. Cook is, all things considered, obviously doing an incredible job.”

The doubled-checked claim from both Cook and Musk leaves Higgins’s assertions to be questionable. Despite the book being reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Musk duly noted that the author has “managed to make his book both false *and* boring.”

 

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Benjamin Godfrey

Benjamin Godfrey is a blockchain enthusiast and journalists who relish writing about the real life applications of blockchain technology and innovations to drive general acceptance and worldwide integration of the emerging technology. His desires to educate people about cryptocurrencies inspires his contributions to renowned blockchain based media and sites. Benjamin Godfrey is a lover of sports and agriculture.



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Li Auto Set for Secondary Listing in Hong Kong to Raise $1.93 Billion

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Chinese carmaker Li Auto set to offer secondary listing in Hong Kong as a hedge against geopolitical risks between America and China.

Automobile manufacturer Li Auto (NASDAQ: LI), is going ahead with a secondary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) despite regulatory crackdowns in the country. The Chinese electric vehicle startup, which is already listed on the NASDAQ, is looking to raise $1.93 billion. It plans to do this by offering 100 million Class A ordinary shares to investors at 150 Hong Kong dollars or $19.29. Li Auto plans to funnel the proceeds from its share offering into research and development of technology and future models. The automobile company is also looking to scale production and increase retail activities around its products. 

Li Auto will announce a final price on August 6th amid the crackdown on Chinese listings. The recent regulatory actions have sparked a huge recent sell-off in Chinese technology stocks. The sell-off has affected everything from food delivery to ride-hailing.

The Chinese government looks to tighten its grip over Chinese technology companies in a bid to avoid a tech-led bubble bursting. This comes on the back of the US SEC imposing stricter listing requirements for Chinese-based companies in America. Amid the excitement and uncertainty of the crackdown, Chinese electric vehicle makers are also looking to capitalize.

Li Auto Is One of Many Chinese Tech Companies with Secondary Listings in Hong Kong

Several Chinese companies already listed on Wall Street have secondary listings in Hong Kong to hedge against Chinese-American tensions. In July, Xpeng (NYSE: XPEV) generated $1.8 billion in a Hong Kong listing. The Li Auto rival issued 85 million Class A ordinary shares and is also already listed in the US. Other Wall Street Chinese technology companies with secondary listings back home are Alibaba, NetEase, and JD.com. 

Owing to the increasing growth of Chinese electric vehicles, the competition has become very intense in recent times, especially among startups. Li Auto, Xpeng, and Nio are all jockeying for dominance in the playing field. In addition to this, all three companies are also directly competing with established companies such as Tesla and BYD. Even the more traditional automakers are always looking to take a sizable market share in the automobile industry. As far as the electrical startups go, Xpeng has already proven to be a force in coming years and is already being dubbed ‘The Chinese Tesla Rival’.

In July 2021, Li Auto recorded a record number of monthly vehicle sales. The company said it delivered 8,589 of its Li One vehicles, the only model in its current model lineup. The Li One is a hybrid vehicle with a fuel tank for charging the battery, giving the car an increased mile range.

Li Auto sold the highest number of vehicles among the trio of Chinese electric vehicle startups listed in the US. Xpeng delivered 8,040 vehicles which was also a company record. In comparison, Nico sold 7,931 cars in the same period.

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Tolu is a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast based in Lagos. He likes to demystify crypto stories to the bare basics so that anyone anywhere can understand without too much background knowledge.
When he’s not neck-deep in crypto stories, Tolu enjoys music, loves to sing and is an avid movie lover.



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