Flash Briefing: Bitcoin breaks $10k; Naspers delays Prosus listing; Luno on hiring spree; Ethiopian coup foiled

By Alec Hogg

  • Late on Friday, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin traded above $10,000 for the first time in over a year, riding a wave of optimism about the future of digital currencies. By Saturday morning, it had already climbed above $11,000, according to research site CoinDesk. Bitcoin has more than tripled from its 2018 low. Last week the sector received a boost with Facebook unveiling its new Libra cryptocurrency, which investors expect will bring digital currencies into the mainstream. The latest run in the Bitcoin price is perfectly timed for SA’s stockbroking disruptor EasyEquities which launched its DCX10 token on Friday. It is an ETF-type vehicle which is invested in 10 cryptocurrencies, with two thirds of the asset base in Bitcoin.
  • Over the weekend, Ethiopia’s reformist government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, foiled a coup attempt that killed several senior government officials, including its military chief. With a population of over 100m, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populace nation after Nigeria. An Ethiopian government spokesman said rebel gunmen launched a coordinated assault shortly after 9pm on Saturday night, killing army chief General Seare Mekonnen and Ambachew Mekonnen, the governor of the state of Amhara, which hosts the national capital of Addis Ababa. Most of the perpetrators have been arrested by federal forces, including the alleged ringleader, Asaminew Tsige, a hard-liner opposed to the prime minister’s reforms. Since rising to power last year Mr. Ahmed has sought to deliver shock therapy to one of the world’s most entrenched one-party systems. He has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties, prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, and re-established relations with neighboring Eritrea. He has also has pledged to liberalize Ethiopia’s tightly controlled economy and partly privatize state-owned enterprises, including Ethiopian Airlines, one of the world’s fastest-growing carriers.
  • Late on Friday afternoon, South Africa’s global internet group Naspers Ltd announced that it will be delaying the Amsterdam listing of Prosus NV, the newly created company which will own the group’s international internet assets. The listing had to be pushed out by two months to September after a third party service provider made an error in dispatching information to shareholders. Naspers expects to unlock value for shareholders through the Prosus listing as the new company will hold assets by including the $134 billion stake in Chinese games-maker Tencent Holdings Ltd. In Friday’s results release for the year to end March, the key bit of news was that Naspers’s classifieds unit has edged into full-year profit, although the e-commerce division remains unprofitable.
  • Still with the global internet group, the six year old, 2.7m user cryptocurrency platform Luno, which Naspers supports, is planning to increase its workforce by more than half to expand its South African headquarters. Over the weekend, Bloomberg quoted Luno’s GM for Africa, Marius Reitz, as saying the Bitcoin and Ethereum exchange will hire 150 new employees by the end of the year taking its headcount to more than 400 across seven offices in Africa, Europe and Asia. The company will also add more cryptocurrencies to its portfolio. Most of the new hires will be based in Johannesburg, Reitz said. The closely held company is one of dozens of cryptocurrency platforms that have sprung up around the world in response to soaring demand for the likes of Bitcoin.