In today’s top Europe, Middle East and Africa news, count China out of joining the West’s sanctions against Russia for its war on Ukraine, and the U.K.’s advertising regulator has pulled an ad by crypto company Floki Inu for an alleged breach of advertising standards.
Plus, Netflix announced plans to acquire Finnish mobile games maker Next Games, delivery startup GoPuff launched an expansion into France, and the European Union is considering banning seven Russian banks from SWIFT, the international messaging system used to process payments.
China is opposed to financial sanctions against Russia and will not join Western countries in imposing them, the head of the country’s banking and insurance regulator said.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday (March 2) that Guo Shuqing said China will not participate in such sanctions, and we will continue to maintain normal economic, trade and financial exchanges with relevant parties.
The United Kingdom’s advertising regulator has taken aim at another crypto ad. The Advertising Standards Authority alleged Floki Inu, the coin inspired by Elon Musk’s dog of the same name, breached advertising standards, the agency announced.
A poster for Floki Inu displayed last fall on London’s subway network featured an image of a cartoon dog wearing a Viking helmet. The text said “Missed Doge. Get Floki,” directed at consumers who missed out on the popular crypto Dogecoin that sold out quickly.
Netflix said it hopes Next Games will provide mobile games based on entertainment franchises. Among its offerings is Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales, which was inspired by one of Netflix’s most popular series.
Not every financial sector has joined the movement to shut out Russia since its invasion of the Ukraine last week, The Financial Times reported Tuesday (March 1).
Binance, one of the biggest exchanges by volume, has said that it does not have plans to block Russian crypto addresses. OKX, the Seychelles-based company near the east coast of Africa, also said it had no plans to bar Russian accounts.
Trading between the Russian ruble and bitcoin and tether has doubled since the offensive began. It reached $60 million a day on Monday. The data suggests Russian account holders that have been banned from the dollar-based financial sector through sanctions are stockpiling in crypto or moving cash overseas.
Russia has begun a cyberwar against the U.S. in retaliation for recent sanctions targeting the banking system and other major industries, the New York Post reported Tuesday (March 1).
The Biden administration has been working with bank executives over the last few months about preparing for these attacks.
Meta Platforms, Facebook’s parent company, announced it would ban the Russian state media’s ability to run ads and monetize them on its network. Because of this, the Russian government moved to “partially restrict” Facebook access in the country.
Russia justified the action by alleging Meta engaged in unlawful censorship. CNN reports that Russia ordered Meta to “stop the independent fact-checking and labelling” of four Russian outlets, but Meta refused.
Animoca Brands, the blockchain gaming giant, is breaking ranks with most of its peers and blocking Russia from its platform in response to the invasion of Ukraine, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday (March 2).
While sanctions against Russia continue from most corners of the map and from numerous industries, most major crypto firms are still working with Russia.
In the Middle East and North Africa, four major United Arab Emirates-based buy now, pay later (BNPL) providers dominate the ecosystem with a common background of launching within months of each other during the pandemic.
For Anuscha Iqbal, co-founder and CEO at Spotii, launching around the same time as the other players “was a good thing” as it brought the BNPL concept to life more rapidly and validated the need for the product in the region.
And less than two years after going live, global Aussie BNPL giant Zip finalized a deal to fully acquire the UAE FinTech firm in October 2021, a deal that has enabled Spotii to leverage Zip’s advanced technology and expertise to accelerate Spotii’s growth across the MENA region.
“Bankers are more internally oriented and process oriented. At Bunq we operate the other way around. We try to really understand what our users want and need and try to surprise and delight them by applying technology,” Ali Niknam, founder and CEO of Amsterdam-based challenger bank Bunq, told PYMNTS in a recent interview.
Available in 30 markets across the European Economic Area, the neobank received a full banking license from the Dutch Central Bank in 2014 and allows users to open a personal or business bank account in about five minutes, with a 30-day trial period to test the product.
In April last year, the digital bank announced that they had reached €1 billion ($1.11 billion) in user deposits since launch in 2012.
Delivery startup GoPuff is launching expansion efforts into France and is serving all of Paris, most of Île-de-France, and parts of Marseille, Lille and Toulouse, with plans to branch across the entire country.
Headquartered in Philadelphia and founded in 2013 by co-CEOs Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola, GoPuff delivers everyday essentials from dark warehouses and selects, sources and owns its own inventory, offering customers local products.
The European Union might trim seven Russian banks from SWIFT, the international messaging system used to process payments, according to documents seen by Politico on Tuesday.
The list includes VTB, the country’s second-largest lender and a financial services provider with branches in Russia, former Soviet states, Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States.
Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Rossiya Bank and Sovcombank are also on the list. But not every bank is included.
For European investors, bitcoin exchange operators and decentralized finance networks wondering when cryptocurrency regulations will be implemented, it could as early as next year.
That’s Philipp Sandner’s prediction. In an interview with PYMNTS, the economist and head of the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center at Germany’s Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, said at the latest, rules will be in place by early 2024.
As crypto-focused and crypto-friendly FinTechs follow Wise’s lead in cutting off remittances to Russia, the core neutrality principle that bitcoin brought to the industry is being tested, financially and morally.
Along with FinTechs Wise and Zepz, two outside-the-bank-system remittance firms with strong crypto payments ties — Ripple partner TransferGo and Coinbase partner Remitly — have cut off citizens of Russia and its allies.
The Russian central bank said Wednesday (March 2) that it will host daily 3 trillion ruble ($28 billion) repossession and deposit auctions to help lending institutions “manage their liquidity and keep overnight money-market rates close to its key rate,” according to a Reuters report.
The auctions are scheduled to start Thursday (March 3) and will be held every weekday, according to a central bank statement, per the news outlet.
Ivory Coast- and France-based health insurance startup Susu is being backed with $1 million in pre-seed funding, Yahoo! Finance reported.
The 3-year-old HealthTech company said the cash couldn’t come at a better time, given the scarcity of quality healthcare in Africa due to the lack of insurance or ill-equipped hospitals.
Angel investors made the financing possible, along with $1.2 million in debt and grant financing from Bpifrance, the one-stop shop for entrepreneurs funded by the French government.