EMEA Daily: London-Based Zilch Blasted for Promoting BNPL to Buy Pizza; EU Antitrust Chief Says Metaverse May Pose Competition Challenges

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In today’s top Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) news, Zilch faces heat for encouraging U.K. consumers to use buy now, pay later (BNPL) to buy pizzas, and the European Union’s competition commissioner wants the metaverse to face more scrutiny. Plus, Ibercaja Banco is on track to be Spain’s first initial public offering (IPO) of 2022, Sequoia Capital India has made its investment debut in the Arab Gulf, and the Bank of Russia has proposed banning cryptocurrency.

London-Based Zilch Blasted for Promoting BNPL to Buy Pizza

Consumer finance company Zilch is catching heat for encouraging U.K. consumers to use buy BNPL plans to buy cheap supermarket pizzas and other treats. Critics say using BNPL for anything but larger purchases will increase personal debt for account holders. Most BNPL companies offer no interest on the repayments.

Metaverse May Pose New Competition Challenges, Says EU Antitrust Chief

The EU’s competition commissioner wants the metaverse to face more scrutiny. Digital chief Margrethe Vestager said plans to craft a comprehensive virtual reality (VR) environment will be the latest challenge for antitrust regulators. The metaverse has been linked to strategies by Meta, formerly Facebook, to build shared virtual spaces. It would allow users to work, play and interact in a digital environment designed to recreate the real world.

Ibercaja Banco on Track to be Spain’s First IPO of 2022

Ibercaja Banco is tracking to be Spain’s first initial public offering (IPO) of 2022 as Ibercaja’s largest shareholder Fundación Ibercaja, which owns 88.04% of the shares, plans to sell 40% of its holdings. The IPO comes as part of the bank’s legal mandates following a 2012 financial crisis bailout. Ibercaja previously said it was planning to float its shares but didn’t mention a time frame. The last public listing by a bank in Spain was Unicaja in 2017.

Lean Technologies Nets $33M in Series A Round

Sequoia Capital India has made its investment debut in the Arab Gulf by leading a $33 million Series A funding round for Lean Technologies. In addition to Sequoia and existing investors, General Electric Co.’s former chief, Jeff Immelt, participated in the financing round. The company plans to use the capital to hire staff and expand across the region.

Russia’s Central Bank Proposes Banning Crypto

Comparing the digital coins to a pyramid scheme, Russia’s central bank has called for a ban on cryptocurrency. The Bank of Russia, stationed in the third-largest crypto-mining nation on earth, said the “potential financial stability risks associated with cryptocurrencies are much higher for emerging markets, including in Russia.” This move is the latest in a worldwide crackdown on cryptocurrency as numerous governments express concerns that digital currencies would disrupt their financial systems.

Nayax Acquires Smart Payments Solution On Track Innovations for $4.5M

Cashless payments FinTech Nayax has entered into “a binding term sheet” to acquire smart card technology firm On Track Innovations (OTI) for about $4.5 million in cash. Nayax’s acquisition of OTI will be completed in two phases.

Italy’s Post Office Eyes Acquisition in Payments Sector

Poste Italiane, the Italian postal service, is considering expanding its payments operations with the purchase of a card processing and electronic payments group. Under the terms of the deal, Italy’s postal service would purchase LIS Holding, the parent company of LIS Pay. The former is a unit of IGT Lottery, an Italian sub-holding owned by New York-listed International Game Technology.

Mastercard Creates Global Tourism Innovation Hub

Mastercard has established a Tourism Innovation Hub in Spain, based in Madrid, with the support of the Spanish government, and it is slated to open in the second quarter of this year. The hub “will develop solutions to support a sustainable and inclusive recovery for the global tourism sector through innovation, research and collaboration across the ecosystem,” according to a press release.

EU Parliament Approves Digital Service Act, Holding Big Tech Accountable for Content

The European Parliament has approved the Digital Service Act (DSA). The bill will change the rules for handling illegal or potentially harmful online content, the liability of online providers for third-party content and vetting obligations of third-party suppliers.

ACI Worldwide Teams With Banks to Integrate UAE’s Instant Payments

Real-time digital payment software provider ACI Worldwide is helping banks connect to the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Instant Payments Platform (IPP) expected to roll out in October. The IPP facilitates real-time payments between bank accounts, and participation by financial institutions (FIs) in the country is mandatory.

Digital Solutions to Allay EU Consumers’ Privacy Concerns

In Europe, privacy concerns have taken center stage in recent years, leading the European Union (EU) to put into effect the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), considered the toughest data privacy and security law in the world, in May 2018.