Tag: money

Angry birds funder shuts fund for Eurotech

Investment outfit Atomico has closed Europe’s largest standalone tech venture fund claiming the situation in the EU has changed and its services are not needed as much.

For the last ten years the fund has provided $765 million to help tech companies start outside the US.  The London-based venture firm was started by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom.

It has invested in around 60 firms since it was established in 2006 and backed Supercell and Angry Birds maker Rovio Entertainment.

Most European start-ups to be acquired rather than holding out for stock market flotations of their own in order to build powerful global tech franchises.

Mattias Ljungman, an Atomico partner, said that thinks were changing in the region both in the maturity of entrepreneurs and business models. The outfit will still invest in Europe but will be interested in other regions now.

Some of Atomico’s recent investments included Scandit, a Zurich-based barcode-scanning software supplier, and Lilium Aviation, based near Munich, which is developing an electric jet with vertical takeoff capacity that could be used as a flying car.


Atomico is the latest in a succession of European-centered venture firms raising record amounts of venture capital. The trend reflects the growing size of individual funding rounds for the hottest start-up firms and the entry of new sources of capital from outside the world of start-up financing to compete for those deals.

But others are now providing funds too. Global VC firm Accel Partners last year raised a new $500 million European fund, while Index announced two joint U.S. and European funds – a $550 million fund for early-stage seed investments and a $700 million fund for later stage companies.

Previously, Balderton Capital raised $305 million in its latest European fund in 2014, while Lakestar raised a 350 million euro ($371 million) fund in 2015.

Rocket Internet last year announced a $1 billion Rocket Internet Co-Investment Fund in conjunction with a range of outside funders that is largely designed to take bigger stakes in its previous investments.


An Apple a day keeps Hon Hai quite gay

Hon Hai assembly line - courtesy Wikimedia CommonsHon Hai – also known as Foxconn – makes Apple’s iPhones and makes a heap of money from the relationship.

Its chief executive, Terry Gou, reckons its revenues will soar by 10 percent this year, to a rather respectable $132.68 billion.

The Taipei Times said Gou said is getting closer and closer to Apple and that’s what will boost its sales.

Hon Hai makes Apple kit in mainland China, although it is a Taiwanese firm. It has come under scrutiny in the past for its labour record and a spate of well publicised suicides.

Gou said that Hon Hai is the chief assembler for Apple kit and in fact makes all of Apple’s bigger iPhones.

He told the Taipei Times that Pegatron – another Taiwanese company – only gets a few crumbs compared to Hon Hai.

Gou has his eyes on the Indian market and will invest in the country.

Cisco plunges money into China

Cisco's next CEO, RobbinsNetworking company Cisco will spend $10 billion in mainland China over the next few years.

It said today that it had signed a memo of understanding (MOU) with the Chinese government to help create jobs, and help create a high tech industry in China.

Its major competitor in China is Huawei. But a host of other companies would like a slice of the Cisco pie.

CEO John Chambers met with vice prime minister Wang Yang in Beijing to announce the spend.

Cisco claimed in a statement that it – China – is in a “critical period of development”. Chambers said that it has a long term commitment to the growth of China.

He said that his company will help China to digitise just that bit more.

Newly fledged CEO Chuck Robbins – pictured –  added to the mix by affirming that Cisco is “deeply committed to our (sic) Chinese partners.”

Euro-cyber crims arrested

Iarrestnspector Knacker and his fellow constables in Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium and Georgia have dismantled a group of cybercriminals who are suspected of committing financial fraud involving emails.

More than 49 suspected members of the criminal group have had their collars felt,  and 58 properties were searched. Authorities seized laptops, hard disks, telephones, tablets, credit cards and cash, SIM cards, memory sticks, forged documents and bank account documents.

It was coordinated by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and Eurojust, led by the Italian Polizia di Stato (Postal and Communications Police), the Spanish National Police, the Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation, and supported by UK law enforcement bodies.

Investigations have revealed international fraud totalling EUR 6 million, accumulated within a very short time.

The group used man-in-the-middle attacks against medium and large European companies through hacking (malware) and social engineering techniques.

Once access to companies’ corporate email accounts was secured, the offenders monitored communications to detect payment requests.

The company’s customers were then requested by the cybercriminals to send their payments to bank accounts controlled by the criminal group. These payments were immediately cashed out through different means. The suspects, mainly from Nigeria, Cameroon and Spain, transferred the profits outside the European Union through a sophisticated money laundering network.

It was a pretty impressive operation, given the fact that it was carried out by the same branch of the Italian police force who can’t stop parcels being stolen from the Rome post office.

A coordination centre was established at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague. Representatives from law enforcement agencies participating in the action day were present in the coordination centre, facilitating international information exchange along with Eurojust. At the same time, Europol specialists provided operational support on the ground in Italy and Spain, through the deployment of Europol mobile offices.


Apple appoints Roman moneyman

Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer has decided to retire and hand over the keys of Apple’s vast treasure house to Luca Maestri in September.

It is the first time since the days of the Roman empire that an Italian has been entrusted with such a vast fortune but fortunately with a name like Maestri he should be able to teach Apple a thing or two.

The 50-year-old was born in Rome which is quite appropriate for someone who will have a high office in a religious cult. It is a time when Apple is at a crossroads with pressure to put its $160 billion hoard to better use.

Rivals Google and Facebook shell out tens of billions of dollars snapping up cutting-edge tech companies like Nest and WhatsApp which guarantees their future. Apple has so far not done much at all lately.

Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes told Reuters that Maestri is assuming this role at an interesting time – when Apple is in the midst of launching more services and likely needs to convince investors that it has more consistent revenue streams in a commoditizing smart phone market.

That said, Maestri is believed to support consistent plans for capital return and thoughtful, achievable guidance. In other words, keep the Pax Romana

Oppenheimer, 51, had been CFO since 2004 and was the architect behind a $100 billion capital return program established a year ago in response to demands the company do more with its ballooning cash hoard.

He joined Apple from Xerox in 2013. He spent 20 years at General Motors where he worked as CFO of several units including GM Europe. Before joining Xerox, he was CFO of network equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks. 

Liberty Reserve laundered $6 billion

The Liberty Reserve electronic currency was really a front for a $6 billion money-laundering operation online, according to US federal prosecutors in New York.

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, told the New York Times that Liberty Reserve was one of the best ways for criminals to shift their cash around.

Liberty Reserve traded in virtual currency and provided the kind of anonymous and easily accessible banking infrastructure increasingly sought by criminal networks, he said.

Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, and other law enforcement officials, said that the charges mark the end of the largest online money-laundering case in history.

He claimed that over seven years, Liberty Reserve was responsible for laundering billions of dollars, conducting 55 million transactions that involved millions of customers around the world, including about 200,000 in the United States.

Liberty Reserve created a convenient way for criminals to make financial transactions. There was a complicated system designed to allow people to move sums large and small around the world with virtual anonymity.

Liberty Reserve was at the heart of the indictment of eight New Yorkers accused who nicked $45 million from bank machines in 27 countries.

The outfit was incorporated in Costa Rica in 2006 by Arthur Budovsky he was arrested in Spain on last week. He was among seven people charged in the case; five of them were under arrest, while two remained at large in Costa Rica.

All have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business, and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. The money laundering count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the other two charges carry a maximum of five years each.

Bharara insisted that the exchange’s clientele was largely made up of criminals, but he invited any legitimate users to contact his office to get their money back. 

Liberty Reserve founder arrested

The chequered history of digital currency hit another black square after the website of Liberty Reserve was shut and its founder arrested.

Inspector Knacker of the Barcelona Yard fingered the collar of Arthur Budovsky Belanchuk, 39 and shut down Libertyreserve.com.

The coppers are investigating money laundering and the arrests were carried out by authorities in the US and Costa Rico.

According to The Tico Times, US officials likely will seek Belanchuk’s extradition so that they can try him on one of those quaint kangaroo courts they have in the land of the free.

Belanchuk should have seen this one coming. His website has been under investigation since 2011 for money laundering.

The outfit is an almost unregulated money transfer business where users can open accounts with as little as an email address. Its digital currency allegedly has a huge user base from underground economies and cybercrime.

If you look at the Libertyreserve.com server it reveals entries of ns1.sinkhole.shadowserver.org and ns2.sinkhole.shadowserver.org, which were apparently changed sometime on Friday. Shadowserver is a non-profit which helps ISPs and web hosting firms eradicate botnets and malware infections on their servers. 

Pirate arrest creates questions about Latvian book market

A school teacher who uploaded a history book on his website as a free educational resource for poor students faces two years in jail, forced labour, or a fine for daring to offend the Latvian government’s closest chums.

The $4 book was posted by Pāvels Jurs,  a teacher in Latvia, who created his site so that children from poor families can still have access to education. His efforts had been praised by the Ministry of Education.

According to TV Net, which we ran through Google translate, Zvaigzne ABC has taken a line against piracy which would be seen as a little over the top even by others in Big Content. It works on the principle that even the most minor case of piracy should be dealt with by going thermonuclear.

Jurs was leaving home to go to school and found himself confronted by four police officers from the Economic Crime Bureau. They proceeded to search Jurs’ home and confiscate the computer he uses in his teaching job. He was arrested and subjected to two hours of interrogation during which he learned he had committed a serious offence that could result in a two year jail sentence.

The site has been shut down, so poor kids will not have access to books either copyrighted or not.

Zvaigzne ABC has had words with Jurs before and he admitted that he had violated copyright but it was not clear what had to be removed from the site. Apparently the two sides have now come to an agreement, but the question was, why were the police involved and have the charges been dropped now that Jurs has reached a settlement with the publishers?

If that were the case then it would mean that the police, funded by the taxpayer, were being used as enforcers for Zvaigne’s anti-piracy policy. It is also unusual that a police force would act in this way unless it had sanction from higher ups.

Slashdot  claims that Zvaigzne ABC has a near monopoly of the school text book market in Finland and has close connections to the Ministry of Education. It is difficult to find a source for these allegations. In fact, reports from Finland have the Department  saying that this was a matter of copyright and outside its jurisdiction.

But this would not be the first time that Big Content has used tax-payer founded police as its own personal enforcers. The most obvious case is that of Mega, where Big Content used its chums in the Department of Justice , who called up favours within the New Zealand Police force, as it turns out, illegally. 

Amazon introduces virtual currency

Amazon is bringing in virtual currency that can be used for purchases on the Kindle Fire tablet.

Apparently the idea is to encourage more developers to create programs for the device.

From May, US customers can use Amazon Coins to buy applications and virtual merchandise sold within games.

The company will “print” “tens of millions of dollars” worth of the currency, which will be accepted in the Amazon app store.

It is seen as a cunning plan to get users to play with Fire apps and encourage more developers to write apps for it. Amazon’s market share of the tablet market has slipped to 12 percent from 16 percent.

Under the virtual money, plan developers will continue to get the 70 percent revenue share from purchases made with the coins. After the coin giveaway ends, customers will be able to buy the tokens using Amazon accounts, the company announced.

“Amazon Coins is an easy way for Kindle Fire customers to spend money in the Amazon Appstore, offering app and game developers another substantial opportunity to drive traffic, downloads and increase monetisation,” the company said in a statement.

Amazon has already released tools that let developers add more features to games for its tablet, including tracking high scores and monitoring awards won during play.

The online bookseller has a long way to go before it catches up with Apple and Android. Amazon currently has more than 68,000 apps in its store, compared with 4,000 when the store debuted in March 2011, the company said. Google and Apple have about 700,000 apps apiece in their stores. 

Samsung throws more cash into Kunshan plant

Samsung is planning splashing cash on expanding its presence in Kunshan, China.

According to a report by Xinhua news, the company will spend around $1.7 billion at the plant in east China’s Jiangsu Province over the next five years.

Samsung can afford it. Last week the company announced that in the final quarter of 2012, it hit £4.1 billion in net profit.

The cash injection is in addition to the estimated $81 million, which the company threw at the plant during 2008, when it was initially set up, through to the end of 2012.

The new investment is said to focus on gaining new business in the competitive smartphone area as well as help Samsung build on its chip business.  The company will use the money to build workshops, purchase equipment and set up research institutes within the plant. 

Samsung is already busy building a $7 billion chip factory in Xi’an, northwestern China.