Tesla shares tumble after Musk interview sparks fresh fears

Tesla shares tumble after Musk interview sparks fresh fears

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 23, 2017 SpaceX CEO Elon Musk listens to US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC. Tesla shares took a pounding Friday amid fresh fears about the future of the electric carmaker after a wide-ranging interview with chief executive Elon Musk in which he revealed his struggles with exhaustion and a lengthy but unsuccessful effort to find a number two executive. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM

Tesla shares took a pounding Friday amid fresh fears about the future of the electric carmaker after a wide-ranging interview with chief executive Elon Musk in which he revealed his struggles with exhaustion and a lengthy but unsuccessful effort to find a number two executive.

In closing trade, Tesla shares skidded 8.9 percent to $305.50 following the publication of the interview with The New York Times.

Musk opened up to the newspaper about the personal toll he says he has endured, working marathon hours trying to ensure that deadlines are met, with Tesla ramping up production of its crucial Model 3 sedan.

“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” Musk said.

“This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career. It was excruciating.”

Musk also revealed he needed to take prescription medication to sleep during the latest ordeals, and disclosed he had approached Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg about becoming his number two at Tesla.

The brash South African-born entrepreneur also sought to explain his tweet earlier this month about taking Tesla private, which has drawn scrutiny from regulators.

He explained that the August 7 tweet claiming assurance that funding for going private was secured was an attempt to be transparent, even though it provoked questions from analysts about whether it violated stock market regulations.

He and other board members are preparing to meet with Securities and Exchange Commission officials as early as next week, the Times said.

Musk acknowledged that no one read his Twitter post before he sent it, but insisted he did not regret it.

“Why would I?” he said.

‘He is one guy’
Musk, who envisions sending tourists to the Moon with his private firm SpaceX and has unveiled ambitious plans for high-speed trains and other projects, is recognized as one of the most influential innovators in the United States.

But he has appeared to fray under the pressure in recent months.

“Part of the issue from my perspective is focus,” said Roger Kay, an analyst and consultant with Endpoint Technologies Associates.

“He is one guy and he has multiple companies. Any one of those requires the full attention of the CEO.”

Kay said the comments on his personal issues “is not going to get him any sympathy,” but added: “It’s not a question of whether he is likable, what matters is whether he can function.”

The analyst noted that “there isn’t anyone currently who can pick up the slack for him (as a number two). But he needs to get that person in place pretty quick.”

Art Hogan, chief market strategist for B. Riley FBR, said the interview “did not improve the image of the company or the CEO,” while adding to uncertainty about Tesla’s future.

“If we say we simply remove Elon Musk from the situation, I don’t know if that does much good. I don’t know what the bench looks like behind him,” Hogan said.

Tesla’s future
Tesla produced slightly more than 100,000 vehicles last year and the company has been struggling to boost production of its Model 3, which is less expensive than its first models and could help expand Tesla’s base.

On the physical toll his job is taking, Musk said: “It’s not been great, actually. I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned.”

He described spending every hour of his 47th birthday in June at work and almost missing his brother’s wedding.

On Monday, Musk explained in a blog post that his much-scrutinized statements about financing were based on his conversations with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and other investors.

If delisted, Tesla could operate without requirements for financial reports and other pressures of a publicly traded firm. However, it could also lose visibility and limit its ability to raise capital.

Musk told the Times that board members had not complained to him about his tweet.

But the paper said he later told them through a spokesperson that Antonio Gracias, Tesla’s lead independent director, had in fact contacted him to discuss the Twitter post.

Musk added he had agreed not to tweet again about taking the firm private unless he had discussed it with the board.

The tycoon has caused controversy by turning to his Twitter following of more than 22 million to vent frustrations in recent months.

In one bizarre moment in July, Musk labeled a British caver a “pedo” — or pedophile — after the rescuer dismissed the Tesla chief’s idea for bringing 12 trapped Thai boys to safety in a miniature submarine.

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Google employees sign protest letter over China search engine

Google employees sign protest letter over China search engine

FILE PHOTO: The brand logo of Alphabet Inc’s Google is seen outside its office in Beijing, China August 8, 2018. Picture taken with a fisheye lens. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

Hundreds of Google employees have signed a protest letter over the company’s reported work on a censor-friendly search engine to get back into China, The New York Times said Thursday.

The employees are demanding more transparency so they can understand the moral implications of their work, said the Times, which obtained a copy of the letter.

It has been signed by 1,400 employees and is circulating on the company’s internal communications system, the newspaper said, quoting three people who are familiar with the document.

The letter argues that the search engine project and Google’s apparent willingness to accept China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.”

“Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment,” they say in the letter, according to the Times.

Employee anger flared with a report this month in The Intercept that Google is secretly building a search engine that will filter content banned in China and thus meet Beijing’s tough censorship rules.

Google withdrew its search engine from China eight years ago due to censorship and hacking.

The new project is said to be codenamed “Dragonfly.”

The tech giant had already come under fire this year from thousands of employees who signed a petition against a $10-million contract with the US military, which was not renewed.

With the secret project, Google employees are reportedly worried that they might unknowingly be working on technology that could help China hide information from its people.

“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” the protest letter says, according to the Times.

At a townhall gathering of employees on Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the firm was committed to transparency, and that while it was “exploring many options”, it was “not close to launching a search product in China,” the Financial Times reported, citing a person present at the meeting.

Pichai said Google’s stated mission is “to organize the world’s information,” Bloomberg News reported, quoting a transcript of the employee meeting.

“China is one-fifth of the world’s population. I think if we were to do our mission well, I think we have to think seriously about how we do more in China,” he added, according to Bloomberg.

“I genuinely do believe we have a positive impact when we engage around the world and I don’t see any reason why that would be different in China.” Pichai said.

“We’ll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here. We definitely do plan to engage more and talk more.”

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MTN secures N200 billion loan  for telecoms expansion drive

MTN secures N200 billion loan for telecoms expansion drive

Telecommunications Company, MTN Nigeria, has secured a N200 billion medium-term loan agreement from a consortium of 12 Nigerian banks.This comes as the firm winds down next year, the repayment of a previously syndicated loan of N329 billion borrowed in 2013 for capital expenditure and working capital, to which it had kept to the servicing agreements.

The loan deal, which was sealed yesterday in Lagos, is to allow MTN expand its services to other parts of the country, especially the underserved and unserved areas.This development is coming three weeks after The Guardian had exclusively reported a 35 per cent dip in rural telephony expansion in Nigeria as a result of drop in investment.

MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Ferdie Moolman, at the signing agreement, said the signing of the loan was a major landmark in the expansion programme.“This will make it possible for people to connect to each other and the world, find and share information and ideas, create and access new digital services and re-imagine old services,” he said.

Moolman, who stated that MTN clocked 17 years and one week in Nigeria yesterday, said the partnership had secured the future for the telecommunications firm, stressing that the loan will support Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) roll-out, Internet expansion and rural telecoms service expansion.The telecommunications firm said the facility was structured with a two-year moratorium and a repayment plan of five years, and is denominated in Naira.

The MTN Nigeria CEO, who lauded the participating financial institutions for staying committed to the telecommunications firm, stressed that the loan syndication showcased the strength of the Nigerian financial institutions and their confidence in MTN’s vision, as well the joint ability of the parties to stimulate significant economic growth.

However, in his welcome address, Gbenga Oyebode, who represented the Chairman of MTN Board in Nigeria, Pascal Dozie, said the telecommunications firm would not have been where it is today without the support of the banks.“Despite pressures on the banks, they have supported our equipment purchase, network roll-out, and expansion plans. Today’s deal further demonstrates their belief in us,” he stressed.

Also, MTN’s Chief Financial Officer, Kunle Awobodu, said the loan would be expended on the modernisation of the firm’s network and, position it for the data consumption of the future. An Executive Director, Corporate Banking, First Bank Plc., Remi Oni, who spoke on behalf of the bank, said the financial institution was extremely glad to be part of the deal, as the loan committed showed the true value of the MTN brand.

“First Bank is committed to sustaining the business of MTN in Nigeria. As lender, we came to this deal excited that we are doing the right thing,” he stated.His counterpart from Union Bank, Emeka Okonkwo, said the bank had done a lot of background work on MTN, and that partnering with it had impacted Nigeria greatly.“We are happy to be part of this deal because we have a great partner in MTN,” he stated.

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Regulator mulls adjustment in ITR, LTR to tackle call masking menace

Regulator mulls adjustment in ITR, LTR to tackle call masking menace

As part of measures targeted at curbing the influence of call masking, SIM boxing menaces in the telecoms sector, the regulator-Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) has not ruled out major adjustment to both International Termination Rate (ITR) and mobile Local Termination Rate (ITR).

This is even as the NCC had given approval to five companies to present the evidence of the design of their software and equipment that could detect and prevent interconnect traffic bypass and SIM boxing activities through a ‘Proof of Concept’ approach, which is about to be completed.

A masked call happens when an international calling number (Caller Line Identity) is masked as local number traffic.

It is a deliberate attempt by the fraudster to avoid paying the correct International Termination Rate (ITR) for international calls, but to benefit by paying Local Termination Rate (LTR).

For example, when the number is masked as a local call, the operator pays N3.90 LTR and not N24.40 ITR.

The process allows operators to terminate inbound international telecoms traffic as local calls so they don’t have to pay ITR, which is the interconnection charges set by telecoms traffic carriers as carrier to carrier charges.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, noted that the commission has since discovered that people are involved in call masking because of the differential in the cost of ITR and LTR.

“So, because local termination rate is cheaper, they tend to hide the numbers and detail of international calls that are terminating in Nigeria and make it looks as if such international number is a local number in order to pay local termination rate as against international termination rate that is higher.

“SIM boxing usage is very attractive and fuels call masking.

However, we have note ruled out anything to curb these challenges, especially the review of both rates.

The disparity between these two rates is around N20 in Nigeria.

So, if you terminate an international call as a local call, you make a gain of about N20, so if you terminate million calls, that is when you know how much these culprits are making and subsequently robbing the government of revenue that should accrue to it.

“We are tackling this issue in two ways. First, we are doing a review of the ITR, in order to make it less attractive to block SIM boxing operation in Nigeria.

Secondly, before we conclude the review of these rates, we want to ensure that capacity is built through technology solution that would enable us to track adequately where the SIM box operatos can be apprehended.”

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FG partners Chinese firm on smart classrooms, digital education

FG partners Chinese firm on smart classrooms, digital education

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire

The Federal Government has announced its partnership with a Chinese technology firm, NetDragon Websoft Holdings, targeted at establishing digital education institute and provision of smart learning classrooms across the country.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, disclosed this on Monday in a statement by her media assistant, Desmond Utomwen.

According to the Presidential Aide, the Smart Classrooms and Digital Education initiative, which will be implemented in partnership with a Chinese Digital Technology giant, NetDragon Websoft Holdings Limited is in line with the commitment of the government to continue to provide quality education to Nigerian children as stipulated in Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It is also designed to facilitate investment in the ICT industry by building IT Incubators, Digital Studios and Software Outsourcing and Training Hubs, towards to the creation of new jobs in the area of Technology and Innovation.

Orelope-Adefulire noted that in the pilot phase of the project, her office is collaborating with NetDragon to provide a smart classroom to the Pilot Science Nursery/Primary School in the Federal Capital Territory.

“The Initiative of Digital Education in Africa otherwise known as “IDEA” was initiated by the Nigerian Government and NetDragon through the Public Private Partnership and direct Foreign Investment that will facilitate the setting up the National Education Resource Public Service Platform, National Education Community Network Platform, National Digital Talent Training Platform, and National Future Education Experience Centre,” Orelepe-Adefulire stated.

The SSAP-SDGs further added that with the initiative, the government aims to provide high-quality digital education resources and a new teaching and collaboration model for basic education in Nigeria, thereby promoting education equity and improving teaching quality.

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How data reference technology aids credit applications

How data reference technology aids credit applications

FinTech is an industry composed of companies that use new technology and innovation with available resources to compete in the marketplace of traditional financial institutions and intermediaries in the delivery of financial services.

As the local banks embrace retail credit business to deepen their retail portfolios and fend off stiff competition from FinTech lenders, more Nigerians are embracing pay day loan schemes to manage their transactions.

A payday loan is a short-term, typically 14-day, cash loan.

The consumer typically writes a personal cheque to the payday lender (or authorizes the electronic equivalent) for the amount borrowed plus the finance charge.

The lender holds the cheque or authorization until the next payday.

When the loan comes due, the borrower can redeem the check for cash, allow the check to be deposited, or pay the finance charge and roll the loan over for another pay period at a new fee.

The typical loan term is about two weeks.

Unveiled in partnership with Remita, the PayDay Loan requires no collateral or guarantor, and it enables customers to obtain loans instantly without visiting the bank.

The quick code, *901*11#, is a strategic tool for the recently-launched PayDay Loan product by the bank, according to a statement by the lender.

To simplify the pay day loan process, SystemSpecs, a Nigerian software firm has been working with lenders, using its data reference service to automate the loan process.

The solution facilitates quick affordability assessments by allowing individuals customer to authorize Remita to share their payment data with the lenders.

Remita submits their bank transaction information electronically, in less than five minutes, during an application for credit.

Each submission is presented directly to the lenders underwriting in real-time, providing the bank with a fast and informed view of a customer’s affordability and facilitating faster lending decisions.

The product enables customers to meet their urgent financial needs before receiving their salaries.

The Access Bank’s Executive Director, Personal Banking, Victor Etuokwu, said that, “Acquiring loans in Nigeria has always been known to be limiting – either due to access or collateral issues, including the duration of the approval process.

“With our obligations to our customers especially during difficult economic periods, we are emphasising the bank’s position in offering lifestyle products and services that meet their financial needs.”

The Remita platform is a flexible cloud-based decision management platform, which consolidates insight on credit applicants and streamlines the risk decision process.

For example, the Access Bank Payday Loan rides on the Remita data reference service, wherein the lender extends its credit services to anyone whose salary is paid with Remita.

After giving due authorisation, individuals can for instance enjoy a payday loan, up to a certain percentage of their monthly income.

According to him, “as soon as the customer dials a given code, Access Bank calls Remita and the customer authorises Remita share their payment data with Access Bank, such as their past six month’s salary.

Access Bank will then run their algorithm to determine the amount of safe loans such an individual can take.”

He explained that the service has greatly reduced default rate.

“In addition, when salaries are to be paid, Remita intercepts the payments and divides it into two.

One portion goes to the individual who took the loan and the second part is paid as fees to the lenders that gave out the loan.

With this platform, we’ve produced a next level data service that helps the industry make the most of new data sharing, and empowers customers with more control over their own financial information. “

Etuokwu, added that, “This offering is unique given that the beneficiaries do not have to be existing customers of Access Bank but hardworking salary earners who now have the opportunity to obtain instant loans without a guarantor or stress.”

“With USSD code *901*11#, Access Bank will approve the application for the PayDay Loan almost instantly when you provide the necessary information.

The application process is simple and quick. Loan applicants can get up to 75 per cent of their monthly salary in less than five minutes”.

All the processes involved when applying for the Access Bank PayDay Loan can be performed right from a telephone device, with a tenor of 31 days or when the next salary is paid. This allows for as much flexibility as possible.

According to the coordinator of Fintech1000+, a high-power platform that aggregates Fintech experts in Nigeria, Africa and Europe, Sola Fanawopo, said the payment initiative was originally conceived to meet only payroll needs, gained accelerated momentum and led to the emergence of Remita as an entirely new product and business line from SystemSpecs.

Remita was officially launched in 2006 with the capability of giving organisations and individuals access to their accounts and balances across different banks on just a single application.

The proposition also included the ability of customers to make and receive payments from any bank account into any other bank account including micro-finance banks in Nigeria.

This was an industry-first and marked the loud arrival of SystemSpecs on the payments technology landscape in Nigeria.

The Remita proposition has however become widely extended over the years and the brand has evolved into a full financial technology solution suite with components covering: Remita payments & collections app, collections, payments and Remita integrated payment gateway.

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‘Limited infrastructure putting pressure on QoS’

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), spoke with journalists on several key industry issues, including the increasing interconnect debt, challenges confronting broadband deployment, MTN listing, among others. He stressed that the Commission was working to ensure subscribers get good telephony service, but that limited infrastructure remains a major challenge. ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, Head, Communications and Technology, who was there, presents the excerpts.

Despite NCC’s efforts, poor quality of service remains. When will consumers have respite?

Limited telecoms infrastructure ­­is a big challenge to service quality and Nigeria needs additional deployment of BTS to change the narrative.

We need more deployment of telecoms infrastructure to provide the additional capacity that is needed to improve service quality.

Other challenges include cable cuts, disruption in electricity supply among others.

NCC has the ability and capacity to monitor quality of service across the country.

We can use our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to identify areas of poor service quality and trace the operator involved in it and direct such operator to fix it up, but the challenge with operators is insufficient telecoms infrastructure.

We have resolved to use the option of fine as the last resort to address poor service quality, but we must continue to monitor the networks and encourage deployment of additional telecoms infrastructure.

What is the commission doing about unused telecoms licenses that are in the hands of some telecoms operators?

NCC has introduced regulatory measure that encourages spectrum trading.

It helps operators to trade their idle spectrum through leasing or transfers.

The regulatory measure was put in place to prevent owners of spectrum from keeping to themselves, spectrum that is not in use.

Spectrum licences are national resources that should not be kept unutilised.

The NCC has the capacity to monitor the use of spectrum that we have assigned to operators and if we discover anyone that is not being used to provide telecoms services, we can revoke such license.

We call on all operators to take advantage of the framework put in place on spectrum trading, leasing, sharing or transfer.

Nigeria is the only country that has such regulatory framework and I will be speaking about it in the next Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain.

We will continue to provide proactive regulation, by taking appropriate steps before the challenge occurs.

What can we say has been responsible for the fall in telecoms sector investment, especially FDIs?

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Nigeria in telecoms is still on the increase.

I do not have the figure for 2017, but government is doing things to further boost FDI through the Executive Order on the ‘Ease of Doing Business.’

Again, telecoms contribution to GDP is on the increase. We are making efforts to woo investors to come and invest in the telecoms sector of the country.

Then, how do we explain the increasing Interconnect debt, which is threatening the telecoms sector?

Today, we see increase in the accumulation of interconnect debts among operators.

Some operators are heavily indebted to others over interconnect termination fees, but our position is that those owing interconnect fees must pay such fees without further delay.

Interconnect debt is made of two components: the facility and infrastructure components.

When calls are terminated on other networks, the networks where the calls are terminated must be paid their termination fees.

The NCC is worried about the accumulated huge debts from interconnectivity, which currently stood at over N165 billion and we have summoned operators and advised them to pay up their interconnect debt promptly.

But be that as it may, no operator can disconnect another operator on the ground of interconnect debt, except by the express permission from NCC. Disconnection will be a measure of last resort and cannot be done without the approval of NCC.

But the number of Internet Service Providers (ISP) are reducing, what is the regulator doing on this?

Indeed, we have seen distortions in the ISP market, especially where telecommunication operators have diversified into offering Internet services to their subscribers.

The distortion is squeezing smaller operators out of market, but one way that could better address the distortion is to divide the market into wholesale and retail trading to separate the bigger operators from the smaller operators, but I do not know if the market is matured now for such separation.

A time has however, come for NCC to look at the situation and sensitise the market.

Part of the negotiation between MTN and the Federal Government over the 2015 MTN fine was that the telecoms company will be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, but MTN is yet to do that. What happens if it fails to list by 2019 when it will complete payment of the fine money?

If it fails to list by 2019, that will be a breach of the settlement agreement that the NCC reached with the telecoms company.

It was an agreement that was signed, sealed and delivered, so anything short of it will be breach of agreement.

In terms of payment, MTN is meeting up with the payment agreement plan for installment-based payment.

So far it has paid N165 billion, which is 50 per cent of the total fine of N330 billion.

They are due to pay another N55 billion by December this year and will complete payment by 2019.

The initial fine was N1.04 trillion, for failure to deactivate unregistered SIM cards from its network, but the fine was later reduced to N330 billion at the end of all negotiations.

Let’s talk about broadband, how has the country fared?

On the assumption of office in 2015, we unveiled the 8-point agenda for the telecoms industry, among which is the broadband plan. We are key at driving broadband penetration in the country.

Before we came on board in 2015, there was a Presidential Broadband Committee set up by the federal government and the committee was jointly chaired by the former Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Earnest Ndukwe and the chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia. The committee did a good job in coming up with a detailed five- year National Broadband Plan (NBP) from 2013-2018.

On page nine of the NBP, it stated that broadband penetration, as at 2012, was between four and six per cent and there were measures through which broadband penetration could be achieved.

Achievement of broadband penetration is not the responsibility of NCC alone, but a combined responsibility of NITDA, NigComSat, Galaxy Backbone, including critical stakeholders like telecommunications operators.

NCC and other agencies of government were given their roles to play in other to achieve faster broadband penetration. The NBP stated that the country must achieve five-fold in broadband penetration, but this of course depends on the minimum and maximum thresh hold.

By multiplying four per cent minimum level of broadband by five, which represents the five years broadband plan, it will give 20 per cent minimum broadband target and by multiplying six per cent maximum broadband penetration as at 2012 by the five years broadband plan, it will give 30 per cent broadband penetration, which is maximum target at the end of 2018.

But Nigeria had in 2017, surpassed the minimum target of 20 per cent, working towards achieving the maximum target of 30 per cent by the end of 2018. This is according to the NBP.

As of today, Nigeria has achieved 22 per cent broadband penetration, and it is close to achieving the 30 per cent target.

The achievement in broadband penetration, gave rise to the first phase licensing of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to drive broadband infrastructure deployment that will enable broadband penetration.

The licence was planned to cover six geopolitical zones of the country, as well as Lagos that was mapped out as a zone for the purpose.

MainOne was licensed to cover Lagos Zone, iConnect, a subsidiary of IHS was granted license to cover the north-central zone.

These two zones were licensed before I came on board as NCC’s EVC, and it was during my tenure that we licensed additional five zones.

They included north-west, north-east, south-west, south-east and south-south.

The beauty of the license is that it is cheap because the NCC is not keen at making so much money in licenses.

The NBP specified the roles of government agencies in achieving 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of 2018.

To what extent have they been able to achieve their specific roles?

Yes, all government agencies that are drafted to drive the broadband policy, were given specific roles but I cannot speak for them on the extent to which they have accomplished their roles.

However, I know that they are all party to the implementation of the broadband penetration.

The National Information Technology Development Agency of Nigeria (NITDA), for instance, has the responsibility to drive capacity building, but NCC is the arrowhead among all other government agencies in driving broadband penetration and we have done so well to achieve over 70 out of the total 30 per cent maximum broadband target for Nigeria.

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Luno claims two million customers

Luno, a leading global cryptocurrency company, announced its two millionth customers.

Luno makes it safe and easy to buy, store and learn about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. The company said is committed to demystifying cryptocurrencies by educating their customers on the risks and benefits associated with this exciting new technology.

With a team of over 250 spread across three main hubs: Singapore, Cape Town and London, Luno now empowers over two million customers in more than 40 countries worldwide. Luno also has a strong presence in Nigeria where it provides customers with services in Bitcoin and Ethereum.

In the last month alone, more than $302 billion worth of cryptocurrency trades have been completed globally, demonstrating the soaring appetite for the cryptocurrency industry across the world. Bitcoin, the first and most popular cryptocurrency, now exceeds the $125 billion total market cap.

Co-founder and CEO of Luno, Marcus Swanepoel, commented, “Reaching the two million customers is a significant achievement. We strongly believe that by making Bitcoin more accessible through education and by offering a user-friendly, safe platform more and more people across the globe can benefit from of a better financial system.”

He added, “This milestone demonstrates the growing adoption of cryptocurrencies across the globe and reinforces our aim of reimaging a financial system where money is cheaper, faster and safer with open and equal access for everyone.”

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NASA launches historic probe to ‘touch Sun’

NASA launches historic probe to ‘touch Sun’

This handout photo released by NASA shows the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard moments before launch on August 12, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA postponed until August 12, 2018, the launch of the first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the Sun on a mission to plunge into our star’s sizzling atmosphere and unlock its mysteries. The reason for the delay was not immediately clear, but was called for after a gaseous helium alarm was sounded in the last moments before liftoff, officials said.Bill INGALLS / NASA / AFP

NASA on Sunday launched a $1.5 billion spacecraft toward the Sun on a historic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of dangerous solar storms.

“Three, two, one, zero, and liftoff! Of the mighty Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, a daring mission to shed light on the mysteries of our closest star, the Sun,” said the narrator on NASA TV. The launch lit the night sky at Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:31 am (0731 GMT).

Less than an hour later, mission managers confirmed that the spacecraft separated from the rocket as planned and was safely on its journey.

“At this point, spacecraft is up and happy,” said a spokesman with United Launch Alliance, the company that operates the rocket.

The unmanned spacecraft’s mission is to get closer than any human-made object ever to the center of our solar system, plunging into the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission.

The probe is guarded by an ultra-powerful heat shield that can endure unprecedented levels of heat, and radiation 500 times that experienced on Earth.

Strange veil
NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to “touch the Sun.”

In reality, it should come within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface, close enough to study the curious phenomenon of the solar wind and the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, which is 300 times hotter than its surface.

The car-sized probe will give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

These poorly understood solar outbursts could potentially wipe out power to millions of people.

A worst-case scenario could cost up to two trillion dollars in the first year alone and take a decade for full recovery, experts say.

“The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth,” said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of Michigan.

Knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

Heat shield
The spacecraft is protected from melting during its close shave with the Sun by a heat shield just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

Yet the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The probe is set to make 24 passes through the corona collecting data.

“The sun is full of mysteries,” said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.

“We are ready. We have the perfect payload. We know the questions we want to answer.”

‘All I have to say is ‘Wow”
The spacecraft is the only NASA probe in history to be named after a living person — 91-year-old solar physicist Eugene Parker, who first described the solar wind in 1958.

Parker watched the launch at Cape Canaveral, and said it was his first time seeing a rocket blast off in person.

“All I have to say is wow, here we go. We are in for some learning over the next several years,” Parker told NASA television.

NASA chief of the science mission directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said Parker is an “incredible hero of our scientific community.”

Zurbuchen also described the probe as one of NASA’s most “strategically important” missions.

Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only recently did the heat shield technology capable of protecting sensitive instruments become available.

Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hours — the fastest ever human-made object, fast enough to travel from New York to Tokyo in one minute.

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SEC tasks MTN on official filing of IPO prospectus, says commission willing to provide support

SEC tasks MTN on official filing of IPO prospectus, says commission willing to provide support

Acting Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mary Uduk has tasked MTN Group on official filing of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) prospectus to the commission.
Uduk, while reacting further over recent media reports that MTN Nigeria is good to go with the Nigeria Listing, stated categorically that neither MTN Nigeria Limited nor any of its advisers or representatives has filed any application on the IPO with the commission.

Speaking at the commission’s second post Capital Market Committee (CMC) in Lagos yesterday, Uduk assured that the commission is willing to provide the necessary regulatory support, if MTN finally files a formal and complete application with the commission. According to her, MTN Nigeria will be treated with the usual diligence and urgency that is applicable to all such filings. Capital market stakeholders have described the moves by the telecoms giant, MTN to raise about N153bn ($500m) from the sale of shares in its Nigerian business as a ‘positive development’, saying it would deepen the market and encourage the active participation of individual consumers in the company’s wealth creation process. But with the current political risks, which have continued to depress transactions on the equity sector of the NSE, operators had doubted the possibility of MTN IPO and subsequent listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) this year.They said that the IPO might not be visible this 2018 by the way and manner MTN was going handling the issue.

Managing Director, APT Securities and Funds Ltd., Malam Garba Kurfi said that MTN was dragging the issue because of the way and manner things were handled in the country. However, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Umar Garba Danbatta, said recently that MTN must list on the NSE on or before May 2019.

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