Author: Kai Wern Chan

Vietnam to Asses Cryptocurrency Development Through Central Bank

Nikkei Asia reported that the government of Vietnam has assigned its central bank in the R&D of its very own blockchain-based digital currency. The policy came forth in Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s Decision 942, which outlined the government’s approach to digitalizing the country with virtual currency based on blockchain technology by 2030.

Prior to this policy announcement, Vietnam wasn’t laid back in its cryptocurrency regulations as making purchases using cryptocurrencies is illegal. In 2018, Vietnam’s financial institutions were ordered to stop providing services to crypto-based consumers, and the then finance minister has also proposed to outlaw imports of crypto mining equipment the same year.
The country is known as one of the top three globally, in the percentage of people claiming that they hold some form of crypto asset (by Statista). There were also shops around the capital City that accept bitcoins as a way to attract customers.
The piloting of digital currency is not a replacement for the country’s paper banknotes, nor is it a green flag for crypto-enthusiasts to use as a means of tender. Instead, the government has declared that cryptocurrencies remain as a non-legal bid for any marketplace. Some experts think that the policy is a means for the government to regulate the blockchain-based currency.

According to Nikkei, Binh Nguyen Thanh, a coordinator at RMIT University Vietnam’s FinTech-Crypto Hub, said that the government authorities will have more control over the virtual money than having it be left to decentralized software and private enterprises. Thanh quoted, “I think they will look at how the experiment in other countries goes.” As back in October 2020 last year, Cambodia launched a state-backed digital coin called “Bakong,” while neighboring countries like Cina and Thailand are reported to have similar thoughts.

He further explained that in Vietnam, cryptocurrency is as it is, will remain in the grey area of an obscured regulation. Dabbling in bitcoin and applying it as a means of payment is a violation of the law and may be subjected to administrative or criminal sanctions.

5 Countries in Asia-Pacific Ranked in Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2021 Top 20

The Global Startup Ecosystem Index has provided valuable and comprehensive insights consistently every year on the startup ecosystem in 100 countries, and 1000 cities globally since 2017 by StartupBlink.

According to the 2021 index released recently, the first Asian country to be on top of the startup ecosystem is China, skipping 7 positions to rank at 7 globally. China has evidently joined the world’s top 10, with Beijing becoming the world’s 3rd highest-ranked startup ecosystem (ranking of countries and cities are calculated differently). It is also reported that China ranks at 4th place in its global Quality score.

Directly quoted from the StartupBlink report, the Quality score is the “presence of 130 global startup influencers with impact reaching far beyond their local ecosystem.”

Coming up 2nd in the Asia-pacific region is Australia, which has actually dropped in rank by 2 spots compared to last year, from 7th to 9th. The country’s most influential and high-performing industry is E-commerce & Retail Technology, where it is in 3rd place worldwide.

Second in Asia and 3rd in Asia-pacific, Singapore has been pushed up to the top 10 placement is Singapore, jumping 6 places up since last year to the 10th place in 2021. It was further reported that China and Singapore were the first batches of Asian countries to have been represented on the global top 10 list.

Lastly, to capture all the Asian countries that were ranked in the top 20 placement in this year’s Global Startup Ecosystem Index, South Korea and India were introduced at the 19th and 20th spot respectively. Moreover, South Korea has also added 5 new cities to the top 1000 ranking for cities.

As for India, the country has finally bounced back to the top 20 after dropping 6 spots in 2020. India has regained its ranking by 3 spots to re-enter the global top 20.


Alibaba Cloud Plans to Invest US$1bn in Asia Pacific Countries in Support of Developing Talent Pool

Alibaba subsidiary, Alibaba Cloud announced its plans to invest USD $1billion across several Asia Pacific countries in developing a digital talent pool and empower the growth of 100,000 startups in the technological field. Current disclosed countries to be involved in the investment plans are Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore.

The investment strategy is part of Alibaba Cloud’s AsiaForward core project, DigiTalents Forward with a focus on infrastructure, technological innovation, and talent development to help in the economic growth of the local arena. AsiaForward has two more projects under its wing being AI Forward, and DigiEntrepreneurs Forward.

Alibaba will partner with Handsprofit, Malaysia in developing its very first international innovation centre in the country. This will become an opportunity for Malaysian startups, and SMEs a platform for innovation opportunities. The platform will be offering various cloud technology, leadership training, and venture capital networking.

The data centre investment in Indonesia will be the third launch by Alibaba Cloud that offers database, security, network, machine learning, and data analytics services. It is mentioned that the new centre allows better support for local businesses in adopting cloud technology and encourages Indonesia’s push for a digital community.

As for development in the Philippines, the first data centre is estimated to be launched by end of 2021. Similar to the development plans of Malaysia and Indonesia, it will be a huge support for the digitalization of local businesses through services such as elastic compute service, database, global network solution, content delivery network, and storage services. This establishes Alibaba Cloud’s stand on prioritizing the country’s banking, fintech, retail, logistics, education sectors, and others.

In Singapore, Alibaba Cloud plans a kick-off of the DigiTalents Forward program. This is said to be a collaboration with Singapore’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, and NTU-Alibaba Singapore Joint Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University. Programs will include the focus of various AI courses under NTU’s MiniMasters program.


Indonesia’s GoTo Group Plans Fundraising Before IPO Launch In 2021

Last week, two of Indonesia’s largest startup companies, Gojek and Tokopedia confirmed that they will be merging to form GoTo Group with a deal of US$18 billion to US$22 billion. The merger is said to be Indonesia’s largest with a combined entity of over 100 million monthly active users, 11 million merchant partners, and more than 2 million registered drivers.

GoTo was reported to have registered a transaction of more than 1.8 billion in the year 2020 and together, conquered 2% of Indonesia’s GDP. Moreover, both companies’ executives explained that the plan to implement the merge as a strategy to compete with the two Southeast Asian giants, Grab and Shopee.

With Shopee’s recent launch of its food-delivery feature in Indonesia this year, it became a direct competition with Tokopedia for Indonesia’s market share.

After the announcement of the merger, GoTo Group proclaimed its plans to start a round of fundraising before its initial public offering (IPO) launch before the end of this year. Moving on, during the talk with financial institutions and sovereign wealth funds, GoTo emphasized its scheme to use Gojek as means of transport for Tokopedia packages for customers paid with the group’s e-wallet.

The merge creates shared data resources and customer that makes their services more efficient and cheaper throughout the country. User engagement is also expected to increase with its services after assembling more into one single app, GoPay.

Some people familiar with the merger claimed that an estimate of US$40 billion could be reflected on Gojek and Tokopedia’s recent financial performance. Subsequently after the merge, the two companies, Gojek and Tokopedia will remain in operation as a separate unit under the GoTo Group.

AirAsia Thai Subsidiary To Undergo Restructuring Amidst $100.41mil Investment

Thai AirAsia, a subsidiary of Asia Aviation Public Company Ltd (AAV) under the low-cost airline AirAsia Group Bhd has approved its capital restructuring plan. The Thai unit of AirAsia will be seeing a $100.41 million (3.15billion baht) capital injection by an anonymous investor.

The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly incurred a great blow to the aviation industry since early 2020 last year. To sustain operations, AAV has mitigated the loss by allocating loans from new investors and offering initial public offering (IPO) to maximized the company’s liquidity.

As the main operating unit of Asia Aviation (AAV), Thai AirAsia has a 45% ownership control by AirAsia Group Bhd.

The investment will be provided in the form of a convertible loan agreement or an interest-free, convertible bond (zero-coupon bond). Investors can expect to gain stakes in Thai AirAsia by converting their loans or bonds to regular shares of $0.65 (20.3925 baht) per share once it has been offered in the IPO.

As AirAsia mentioned, “Once the conversion conditions occur, the status of the new investor will change from a creditor into a shareholder of Thai AirAsia.” They furthered that the anticipated date of completion for the whole process would be around mid-May of 2021 with the transaction completed in June.

As for the IPO, AirAsia said that the preparation should be taking more than seven months before it is up for offer.

AirAsia emphasized that various measures have been implemented to alleviate the effects of Covid-19 such as reduction of employee working hours. Yet, all efforts were unable to improve the group’s financial circumstances.

Although there have been several claims such as that by MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd on the recovery of the aviation and air travel industry presuming to improve in 2021, it maintains a struggle as that travel restriction has not been fully lifted yet.

Other than the currently announced capital restructuring, AirAsia has yet to receive any monetary support from any financial institution or soft loans from the government.


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