Thank you for your support through 2020, we hope you and your loved ones are enjoying a restful holiday season. Canadian fundraising activity understandably slowed this past week, M&A activity remained robust. As Bitcoin enjoys a revival these past few weeks, we would expect to see heightened capital markets activity in 2021. In the USA, most of the news in the past week focused on SPACs. We would also keep an eye out for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s approval of the NYSE’s “direct” listing plan, which could allow companies to raise capital in direct listings.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

AcuityAds (AT-TSX) files preliminary base shelf prospectus. The base shelf prospectus, when made final, will allow AcuityAds and certain of its security holders to qualify the distribution by way of prospectus in Canada of up to C$250,000,000 of common shares, preferred shares, subscription receipts, debt securities, warrants, units, or any combination thereof (collectively, the “Securities”), during the 25-month period that the base shelf prospectus is effective. The specific terms of any offering under the base shelf prospectus will be established in a prospectus supplement, which will be filed with the applicable Canadian securities regulatory authorities in connection with any such offering. The Securities may be offered in amounts, at prices and on terms to be determined at the time of sale and, subject to applicable regulations, may include “at-the-market” transactions, public offerings or strategic investments. http://bit.ly/2KuR0nT

Engine Media (GAME-TSXV) announces private placement of up to US$25 million. The company intends to complete a non-brokered private placement of up to approximately 3.3 million units (the “Units”) at a price of US$7.50 per Unit for gross proceeds of up to US$25 million. Each Unit consists of one common share of the Company and one-half of one common share purchase warrant (a “Warrant”). Each whole Warrant entitles the holder to acquire one additional share of the Company at a price of US$15.00 per share for a period of 3 years provided that: (i) if the common shares are listed for trading on NASDAQ, (ii) the Company completes an offering of securities under a short form prospectus for an aggregate amount of at least US$30,000,000, and (iii) the closing price of the common shares on NASDAQ is US$30.00 or greater for a period of 15 consecutive trading days, then the Company may accelerate the expiry date of the Warrants to the 30th day after the date written notice is provided to the holders. http://bit.ly/34IwF5h

Ruckify closes $6.9 million private placement offering of common shares and enters definitive agreement with Apolo to complete Qualifying Transaction. Ruckify has completed its previously announced private placement (the “Offering”) of common shares in the capital of Ruckify (the “Common Shares”). Pursuant to the Offering, Ruckify issued an aggregate of 1,729,114 Common Shares at a price of $4.00 per Common Share for gross proceeds of approximately $6.9 million, of which 799,493 Common Shares were sold pursuant to a brokered portion of the Offering by Eight Capital and 929,621 Common Shares were sold on a non-brokered basis. http://bit.ly/2WDuFHh

Converge Technology Solutions Corp. (CTS-TSXV) acquires Vivvo Application Studios Ltd. Vivvo is the sixteenth acquisition announced by Converge since October 2017. Vivvo had trailing twelve month revenue of approximately $1.85 million for the period ending November 30, 2020. The purchase price consisted of the following: (i) $2.5 million in cash at closing, after adjusting for excess working capital; (ii) up to an aggregate of $3.0 million in earn-out payments for the three years following closing of the acquisition based on the achievement of certain milestones including the commercialization of the combination of the Vivvo Trust Platform™ and the Converge TrustBuilder Platform; and (iii) the issuance of 381,262 common shares of Converge. Assuming the full earnout is earned, the purchase multiple would equal 5 times Vivvo EBITDA in the third year following closing. http://bit.ly/2KNQEbV

Converge Technology Solutions Corp. (CTS-TSXV) to acquire CarpeDatum Consulting, Inc. The company signed a definitive agreement to acquire CarpeDatum Consulting, Inc., a national IBM Analytics consulting organization and Alteryx Preferred Partner, headquartered in Denver, CO with offices in Los Angeles and Dallas. The acquisition is anticipated to close January 4th, 2021. CarpeDatum will mark the fifteenth acquisition completed by Converge since October 2017. CarpeDatum had trailing twelve month revenue of approximately $6.7 million for the period ending November 30, 2020 with adjusted EBITDA of approximately $1.8 million. The purchase price will consist of US$5.0 million (approx. $6.4 million), as follows: (i) US$1.25 million in cash at closing; (ii) up to an aggregate of US$2.5 million in earn-out payments for the three years following closing of the acquisition based on the achievement of certain milestones; and (iii) the issuance of a right to the sellers to exchange their retained membership interests in CarpeDatum (the “Retained Interests”), which consist solely of Class B membership units and have no right to any economic or voting participation in CarpeDatum, for an aggregate value of US$1.25 million of Converge shares (the “Exchange Right”), subject to certain conditions. http://bit.ly/34FoFCe

Wishpond (WISH-TSV) to acquire Invigo Media Corp. – a profitable and growing marketing technology and services company. The Transaction is Wishpond’s first acquisition in its strategy to grow inorganically through tuck-in acquisitions of marketing technology companies and digital marketing agencies. Access to Invigo’s technology is expected to accelerate Wishpond’s product roadmap by adding new functionality to improve the customer experience with the platform. Invigo’s revenue is substantially subscription-based recurring revenue, which provides strong revenue and cash flow visibility. Based on the last six months, Invigo has an annualized revenue run-rate of approximately $2.7 million with EBITDA margins exceeding 20%. For the past three years, Invigo’s sales have been growing at over 20% compound annual growth rate.In consideration for the Transaction, the Company has agreed to pay $835,000 in cash on the closing date from cash on hand and grant the vendor a two year earn-out based on adjusted EBITDA growth of the acquired business that is payable on a quarterly basis. Based on projected post-closing EBITDA of the business, the Company anticipates the total purchase price to be approximately $3 million, including the earn-out payments. For earn-out payments up to $5 million, the earn-out is payable in common shares of Wishpond (each, a “Share”) at a deemed price per share equal to the prior 5 day VWAP of the Shares on the TSX Venture Exchange (the “TSXV”) on the payment date. For any earn-out payments in excess of $5 million, the Company has the discretion to pay in cash, Shares or combination thereof. Any Shares issued in connection with the earn-out will be subject to a restricted period of four months and one day from the date of issuance. http://bit.ly/34E6tIW

Mogo (MOGO-TSX, MOGO-NASDAQ) to make corporate investment in Bitcoin. The company announced that it plans to make an initial corporate investment of up to $1.5 million in bitcoin and will consider additional investments in 2021 as it monetizes its $17 million investment portfolio. The initial purchase would represent approximately 1.5% of Mogo’s total assets as of the end of the third quarter of 2020. In addition, the Company recently announced its bitcoin rewards program, a first of its kind in Canada, that provides members with the opportunity to earn bitcoin through engagement with Mogo’s products and enables them to accumulate bitcoin over time. http://bit.ly/2WPrmwM

Coinbase to open Canadian office, launches hiring initiative. San Francisco-based digital currency exchange Coinbase will open a Canadian office in 2021 and has announced it will begin hiring, starting with technical and recruiting roles. In a blog post, Grant D’Arcy, vice president of talent at Coinbase, stated the company is committed to being a “remote-first company,” meaning that new hires in Canada will have the opportunity to work anywhere in their country of hire. The opening of a new office is dependent on COVID-related conditions and the location of the office was not announced. The company has 19 open positions in Canada listed on its website. Founded in 2012 by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam, Coinbase brokers exchanges of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Tezos, and other cryptocurrencies. On December 17, the company announced it had submitted draft registration on a new securities filing on a Form F-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and is awaiting a review by the SEC. There is no date set for its IPO. According to Capital.com, Coinbase has traded more than US$320 billion in volume and has raised more than US$500 million in equity financing. http://bit.ly/3mQYxdU

Shopify (SHOP-NYSE, SHOP-TSX) hosts thousands of fraudulent shops, analysis finds. Shopify says it does “not condone the behavior of bad actors” after a Fakespot analysis found that more than 20 per cent of the Shopify stores it analyzed posed a risk to shoppers. Fakespot is a program and browser extension that helps online shoppers to spot fake reviews and counterfeits. But recently, the company used their tools proactively to do an analysis of a little over 10 per cent of Shopify’s storefronts. The analysis found that almost 26,000 of the over 124,000 Shopify stores it looked into were “related to fraudulent practices” and were flagged with a “caution” or “warning determination” by the Fakespot tool. Shopify hosts over a million stores. In addition, almost 39 per cent of the stores were said to be “problematic sellers,” with either poor reputations, counterfeit issues or possible brand infringements. Meanwhile, another 28 per cent were found to be possible scam stores – such as those with privacy leaks and suspiciously low prices. In addition, over 16 per cent had problematic consumer reports and just under 10 per cent had no transaction history. http://bit.ly/2WJymLl

More than 400 Amazon workers have been infected with COVID-19 at Canadian facilities, where working conditions are described as ‘hell’. More than 400 Amazon workers in Canada reportedly have tested positive for coronavirus, with some blaming workplace conditions. “The working conditions are hell,” a former Amazon worker told The National Post. The spread occured at four facilities near Ontario, according to the Post, which quotes former and current employees at the facilities. Employees who tests positive, along with those who are self-isolating, are given up to two-weeks pay while they’re home, Amazon said. The company has previously said new hires are being trained to follow strict health and safety rules. It said it invested more than $800 million in new pandemic safety measures in the first six months of 2020, according to an October press release. http://bit.ly/2WIKmNr

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

U.S. approves NYSE listing plan to cut out Wall Street middlemen. Companies can raise capital on the New York Stock Exchange through direct listings, without losing gains if their stock pops or forking out hefty fees to Wall Street banks, which typically underwrite such capital raisings, the U.S. securities regulator said on Tuesday. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s approval of the NYSE’s “direct” listing plan threatens to overhaul the U.S. initial public offering market, by allowing aspiring public companies to sell shares directly to investors. https://reut.rs/2M4ucMf

SoftBank files for SPAC to raise over US$500 million. SoftBank Group Corp. filed Monday to raise US$525 million through a blank-check company, tapping into record investor enthusiasm this year for the listing vehicles. The special purpose acquisition company, SVF Investment Corp., will address sectors like mobile communications technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud technologies and software, according to its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company has entered into a forward purchase agreement in which it has committed US$250 million to US$300 million of capital for when it combines with another company, the prospectus shows. A merger with a SPAC allows a company to become publicly traded while avoiding some of the uncertainty of an initial public offering. https://bloom.bg/3nI2brM

EV maker Canoo’s stock set to surge under new ticker symbol ‘GOEV’. Canoo Holdings Ltd., a Los Angeles-based electric vehicle (EV) maker, said Tuesday it has completed its reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp., so its stock will now begin trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “GOEV.” The stock is surging 12.9% in premarket trading. http://on.mktw.net/2Jelg5M

SPAC Colonnade Acquisition’s stock rockets after merger deal with lidar sensor maker Ouster. Shares of Colonnade Acquisition Corp. rocketed 46.2% in morning trading Tuesday to pace the NYSE’s gainers, after the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), or “blank-check” company, announced a merger deal that will take lidar sensor maker Ouster Inc. public. Under terms of the deal, which implies an equity value for Ouster of about US$1.9 billion, will provide up to US$300 million in gross proceeds for Ouster. The proceeds is expected to be used to advance development and manufacturing of Ouster’s digital lidar sensors, that provide 3D vision to robots and autonomous vehicles. Once the reverse merger closes, the company will operate as Ouster Inc. and the stock is expected to remain listed on the Nasdaq exchange but under the new ticker symbol “OUST.” The deal comes at a time that shares of fellow lidar sensor maker Luminar Technologies Inc., which went public through a SPAC merger earlier this month, have more than doubled (up 108.0%) this month, while the S&P 500 has gained 2.0%. http://on.mktw.net/3aBgQkP

Taboola in talks for ION SPAC merge after Outbrain deal falls apart. The Israeli online content-recommendation company Taboola is conducting negotiations to merge with ION group’s special-purpose acquisition company listed in NYSE, Haaretz has learned. ION SPAC is a public shell company that raised US$259 million to find and merge with a private firm. In October, the company made an initial public offering for its SPAC, with the declared intention of purchasing an Israeli unicorn – a tech company valued at over a billion dollars. The SPAC is led by Jonathan Kolber, Gilad Shany, Avrom Gilbert and Anthony Reich. If everything goes according to plan, Taboola will be listed on Wall Street through the merger. Taboola’s business model is to split profits with publishers, who for the most part get a 60 percent cut. In the case of the biggest publishers, the company will typically guarantee revenues in exchange for getting content-recommendation exclusivity. Taboola is profitable on an operating basis and generates revenues of around US$150 million a year (after sharing profits with publishers). Adam Singolda, its founder and CEO, said several months ago that the past year had been a banner one, despite the coronavirus pandemic – better than the past three years combined. http://bit.ly/3rwx3Oj

IAC stock soars after plan to spin off Vimeo as a publicly traded company. Shares of IAC/InterActiveCorp. soared 12.7% toward a record Tuesday, after the technology company incubator said it approved a plan to spin off its stake in video software company Vimeo into a separately traded public company. The announcement comes after IAC had announced in early November that it was “contemplating” a move. IAC said Vimeo will become the 11th company which it has incubated and then spun off, like it did with Expedia Group Inc. and Match Group Inc. http://on.mktw.net/3mSpSwp

Jack Dorsey’s Square has reportedly expressed interest in buying Jay-Z’s music streaming platform, Tidal. Digital payments processor Square has discussed buying Tidal, Jay-Z’s music streaming platform, sources told Bloomberg. As the outlet notes, the talks may not necessarily lead to an acquisition, but the reported discussion could be part of Square’s ongoing strategy to build up more standalone services within its arsenal of offerings. The news of the discussions also comes after Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was seen vacationing with both Jay-Z and Beyoncé this year in New York and most recently in Hawaii this month. http://bit.ly/3aK6XBa

Peloton stock price surges 15% to record high on US$420 million Precor acquisition. Peloton stock surged as much as 15% to a record high on Tuesday after the connected-fitness company struck a deal to acquire Precor for US$420 million in cash. The rally added up to $6 billion to Peloton’s market capitalization. Precor makes cardio and weight machines, and ranks among the largest commercial suppliers of fitness equipment in the world. Peloton plans to use the 40-year-old company’s 625,000 square feet of US manufacturing capacity to make more equipment and ship it to domestic customers sooner. The takeover will also add nearly 100 people to Peloton’s research-and-development team. Moreover, Peloton hopes it will boost sales of its bikes and treadmills – which are equipped with internet-connected screens to allow users to stream live and on-demand classes – to gyms, hotels, colleges, apartment blocks, and companies that buy exercise equipment for shared use. http://bit.ly/37JU9c9

James Bond maker MGM Holdings, valued at about US$5.5 billion, is reportedly considering a sale. Movie studio MGM Holdings, best known for the James Bond franchise, is exploring a sale, sources familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. The company has already started a formal sale process, the sources said, and has a market value of about US$5.5 billion including debt, based on privately traded shares. MGM has a large catalog of big-name movies and TV shows it has either produced or distributed, including the Rocky franchise, “Legally Blonde,” and “A Star is Born,” which could make it attractive for sale, investors told the WSJ. Potential buyers have been expressing interest since the spring, when demand for streaming began to surge during national lockdowns, a person familiar with the process told the publication. MGM hopes that interest will extend beyond traditional Hollywood players, one of the sources told the publication. They suggested international media companies, private-equity investors, and blank-check companies could be interested. This isn’t the first time the studio has reportedly considered a sale in recent years. In 2016, MGM was close to a deal with a Chinese buyer for around US$8 billion, sources told the WSJ, but this fell through. Two years later, MGM’s former CEO Gary Barber reportedly held talks with Apple to sell the studio for more than US$6 billion, the publication said. The studio fired Barber for having early, unsanctioned conversations, and Kevin Ulrich, the chairman of MGM’s board and co-founder of Anchorage, MGM’s biggest shareholder, reassured investors that he could sell MGM for more than $8 billion in two to three years, per the Journal. http://bit.ly/2KzyISl

Telegram, nearing 500 million users, to begin monetizing the app. Instant messaging app Telegram is “approaching” 500 million users and plans to generate revenue starting next year to keep the business afloat, its founder Pavel Durov said on Wednesday. Durov said he has personally bankrolled the seven-year-old business so far, but as the startup scales he is looking for ways to monetize the instant messaging service. “A project of our size needs at least a few hundred million dollars per year to keep going,” he said. The service, which topped 400 million active users in April this year, will introduce its own ad platform for public one-to-many channels — “one that is user-friendly, respects privacy and allows us to cover the costs of server and traffic,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.Some analysts were hoping that Telegram would be able to monetize the platform through its blockchain token project. But after several delays and regulatory troubles, Telegram said in May that it had decided to abandon the project. For this project, Dubai-based Telegram had raised US$1.7 billion from investors in 2018. It had planned to distribute its token, called grams, after developing the blockchain software. Telegram offered to return US$1.2 billion to investors earlier this year. http://tcrn.ch/3mUmW1X

Emerging Technologies

Zoom is considering expanding to email, messaging, calendar to compete with productivity platforms giants like Google and Microsoft, according to new report. Zoom is planning its next act. The video communications company is considering expanding to email, messaging, and calendar services, in a bid to to rival productivity giants like Microsoft and Google, The Information reported Wednesday. Zoom already integrates with third-party productivity platforms, like Dropbox and Asana, but now has begun work on a “next generation” email platform the Information reported, citing anonymous sources. However, the report notes that the project is in its early stages. Zoom did not immediately respond to a request for comment. http://bit.ly/3aI8iIQ

Apple targets autonomous car for consumers by 2024. Apple Inc. plans to build a self-driving car for consumers and is targeting 2024 to produce the vehicle, Reuters reported on Monday. The company is developing its own battery technology that could reduce the cost of power packs and extend the vehicle’s range, Reuters said, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. An Apple spokesman declined to comment. https://bloom.bg/3rhUKtr

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Video-game industry revenues grew so much during the pandemic that they reportedly exceeded sports and film combined. 2020 hasn’t been a great year for most people, nor has it been very good for most industries. The coronavirus pandemic killed over 1.7 million people worldwide, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization, and countries around the world remain in various forms of lockdown. But for video-game makers like Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, 2020 has been a record-breaking sales year as millions of people headed indoors for extended periods amid coronavirus lockdowns. Video-game industry revenues are on track to exceed both sports and film combined, according to a new report from market intelligence firm IDC on Marketplace. IDC estimates video-game industry revenues reaching US$179.7 billion for the year. Both the sports and film industries have seen major declines in 2020, as stadiums and theaters shuttered amid coronavirus lockdowns. Growth in the video-game industry was broadly spurred by the impacts of the pandemic: Four-fifths of all US consumers “played a video game in the past six months,” according to the latest report from the NPD Group. http://bit.ly/34MN1dd

GameStop soars 29% to multi-year high as Chewy co-founder ups investment stake. Chewy.com co-founder Ryan Cohen is continuing to add to his stake in GameStop, according a filing made with the SEC on Monday. Throug RC Ventures, Cohen now owns a 12.9% stake in GameStop worth US$140 million as of Monday’s close. This is an increase from Cohen’s previous September disclosure that his firm built a 9.9% stake in the video game retailer. GameStop surged as much as 29% to multi-year highs in Tuesday trades. Shares of GameStop have more than quadrupled since the summer as consumers spend more money on video games amid the pandemic and next generation consoles like the Playstation 5 remain sold-out due to high demand. In September, Cohen approached GameStop’s board with a plan to turn the retailer into a specialized ecommerce behemoth in the video game space, similar to how Cohen turned Chewy.com into the ecommerce juggernaut for pet supplies. http://bit.ly/3mSwdrH

‘Cyberpunk 2077’ sales have already topped 13 million despite the game being pulled from the PlayStation 4. Despite a messy launch which resulted in the game being outright pulled from the PlayStation online store, “Cyberpunk 2077” has already moved over 13 million copies. The Polish game studio behind this year’s most anticipated game announced as much in a note to investors on Tuesday. That sales number across PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 4 includes the over 8 million pre-orders of the game that made the game profitable before it even launched on December 10. Notably, that number also includes the people who returned the game due to issues with how it runs. “Cyberpunk 2077” is the most anticipated game of the year, if not one the most anticipated game in several years: It’s the first new game from the Polish studio behind the highly acclaimed “Witcher” series since “The Witcher 3” launched in 2015. Before “Cyberpunk 2077” launched on December 10, it had already sold over 8 million copies. At a minimum of US$60 apiece, that’s just shy of US$500 million in sales before anyone could even play the game. In the days following, it dominated attention on Twitch: The game had over 1 million concurrent viewers at one point, which earned it the Twitch record for “the most concurrent viewers for any single player game ever,” CD Projekt said. http://bit.ly/3aJ9cFb

New gaming-focused Apple TV with updated remote reportedly still on track for 2021. Reports of a new Apple TV have been circulating for a while now as the current lineup starts to really show its age compared to competing streaming devices. Now, Bloomberg reiterated that Apple has a new Apple TV coming in 2021 with an upgraded remote and other changes. Writing in his Full Charged newsletter, Mark Gurman today briefly doubled down on expectations of a new Apple TV in 2021. The new Apple TV is said to have an upgraded remote, a new processor inside, and a focus on gaming: For next year, Apple is planning an upgraded box with a stronger gaming focus, an updated remote and a new processor. Those changes will fix some of the Apple TV box’s issues, but the product will need to take another big leap—akin to its 2015 changes—to remain competitive in the long term. http://bit.ly/3hemElF

Apple continues purging games from China App Store as it enforces new licensing requirements. Apple is in the process of purging “thousands of video game apps” from the App Store, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. This comes as China cracks down on unlicensed games in the country, but the removals extend beyond the gaming category in some cases. Over the last month, Apple has been warning Chinese developers that “a new wave of paid gaming apps are at risk of removal,” the report says. This process is one that Apple has been working through for months, with the first removals starting over the summer. Apple has reminded developers this month that “premium games and those with in-app purchases had until Dec. 31 to submit proof of a government license.” The issue centers around a regulation in China that requires video games to be licensed before being released. App Store developers have actually been able to skirt this requirement for years. For instance, Apple would allow games into the App Store while they were awaiting their license, and it simply wouldn’t enforce the requirement in some cases. http://bit.ly/2JlGIG9

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Temporary Brexit terms will keep EU-U.K. data flowing. Companies won’t have to scramble to find alternative solutions to keep data flowing between the European Union and the U.K. post Brexit after negotiators agreed to a temporary solution that will keep the current rules in place for several months. While EU officials have been working on a so-called adequacy decision, which would protect data transfers, they won’t be done by the time the transition period ends next week. To bridge that gap, the Brexit deal includes an interim solution for a maximum of six months, an EU official familiar with the talks said. The data bridge will be limited in time and requires the U.K. to suspend its own data protection rules until the adequacy decision has been finalized, the official said on condition of anonymity, because the deal isn’t public yet. The U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham warned companies earlier this week to find alternative workarounds in case there wasn’t a deal. The interim solution in the Brexit deal also protects companies from legal limbo and possible fines under the EU’s strict data privacy rules. http://bloom.bg/3hlSTPy

Alibaba stock suffering record drop after antitrust probe in China. Shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. tumbled Thursday toward the lowest close in nearly six months, after Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into the e-commerce giant. http://on.mktw.net/3rqvBg5

5G auction breaks record as bids top US$66 billion. The Federal Communications Commission’s ongoing sale of wireless licenses has fetched more than US$66.4 billion after three weeks of bidding, a record sum that could alter cellphone carriers’ prospects for the next decade. http://on.mktw.net/2KQJJPd

Physical addresses of 270K Ledger owners leaked on hacker forum. A threat actor has leaked the stolen email and mailing addresses for Ledger cryptocurrency wallet users on a hacker forum for free. Ledger is a hardware cryptocurrency wallet that is used to store, manage, and sell cryptocurrency. The funds held in these wallets are secured using a 24-word recovery phrase and an optional secret passphrase that only the owner knows. In June 2020, Ledger suffered a data breach after a website vulnerability allowed threat actors to access customers’ contact details. Today, a threat actor has shared an archive containing two files named ‘All Emails (Subscription).txt’ and ‘Ledger Orders (Buyers) only.txt’ that contain data stolen during the data breach. The ‘All Emails (Subscription).txt’ text file contains the email addresses of 1,075,382 people who subscribed to the Ledger newsletter. The ‘Ledger Orders (Buyers) only.txt’ is more sensitive as it contains the names, mailing addresses, and phone numbers for 272,853 people who purchased a Ledger device. https://bit.ly/3mK7EwL


Does the shoe fit? Try it on with Augmented Reality. The technology was made ubiquitous by the social media platform Snapchat, which used it to transform users’ faces into anime illustrations and add dancing hot dogs to their videos. But as the pandemic continues, retailers are increasingly relying on augmented reality to help customers try on products. It displays goods as a filter on what they see on their phones, stitching shoes onto customers’ feet, adding makeup to their faces and dropping furniture into their apartments. Traditional retailers, struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, are hoping augmented reality can help them recreate the real-world shopping experience in the virtual world. Retailers’ overall Black Friday sales fell 20 percent from last year, according to a Morgan Stanley estimate, but online spending that day increased 21.6 percent, according to Adobe Analytics. Retailers’ demand for augmented reality has led many of them to Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, which has raced to add shopping experiences to its array of filters. The company began adding shopping filters in June and now offers augmented reality try-on experiences for luxury brands like Gucci and Dior, and makeup tutorials from the cosmetics manufacturer Too Faced. This month, Snap teamed up with Perfect, a company that creates makeup try-on experiences, to add more beauty filters and shopping experiences to Snapchat. Traditional retailers like Home Depot and internet giants like Amazon have experimented with the technology as well, using augmented reality filters for displaying furniture in consumers’ homes. Some companies that focus on augmented reality have created apps solely for trying things on, like Wanna Kicks, for sneakers. Others, like Marxent, have worked with retailers to help build augmented reality experiences focused on their products. In June, Snap also released a technical library of tools to help developers recognize and classify objects to create augmented reality filters for Snapchat. http://nyti.ms/37J59Xx

China’s bargain shopping sites push to build own shipping networks. Shopping sites delivering from China are rushing to build their own global freight networks, as the coronavirus pandemic and new US shipping rules threaten the supply of packages to the west in the run-up to Christmas. Stung by rising costs after a new postage deal was struck last year between the US and the United Nations’ postal body, bargain sites such as Wish and AliExpress have invested heavily to handle their own flow of goods. Until July, a UN international postal agreement required China to be treated as a developing nation and afforded lower global shipping fees that were effectively subsidised by western countries including the US. This meant Chinese companies could ship millions of low-price items — from fake eyelashes to phone chargers — thousands of miles using state-run postal services, often for less than it would cost to ship them domestically. The US estimated it cost US$300 million every year to subsidise parcels posted from China. However, the Trump administration threatened to quit the UN’s postal body over the issue, forcing a compromise that saw the US set its own pricing starting in July, with European countries able to raise prices from January 1. Katherine Muth of the US-based International Mailers Advisory Group said the USPS raised its inbound rates on average by about 50 per cent, causing a “huge drop-off in volume on inbound parcels”, especially from China, which had sent about half of all packages. http://on.ft.com/34DwGaN

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency firm Ripple expects to be sued by the SEC; XRP plunges. Ripple, the fintech company best known for cryptocurrency XRP, has said it expects to be sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that it violated investor protection laws. The SEC is set to bring a lawsuit against Ripple, CEO Brad Garlinghouse and co-founder Chris Larsen. It will claim that the company violated laws against selling unregistered securities when it sold XRP to investors. https://cnb.cx/38pyh57

‘There is no emergency,’ say crypto firms as US plans new ownership disclosure rules. In a letter sent last week to the US Treasury’s FinCEN financial crimes unit, the lead lawyer at Coinbase had a simple message: “There is no emergency here.” Coinbase is one of several leading crypto firms pushing back against a FinCEN proposal that would require them to log personal details about the people who use cryptocurrency. Treasury officials published a draft version of the new rules on December 18. FinCEN says the proposal would help stop money laundering, so they put in place a 15-day public comment period on the new rules. Crypto firms say there’s no reason to rush new regulations when previous comment periods sometimes lasted 30 days, 60 days, or longer. Under the new rules, crypto firms would be required to report details for transactions over US$10,000, similar to current banking regulations. Exchanges would have to record personal information for crypto holders who transfer more than US$3,000 in a day, according to FinCEN. http://bit.ly/2KTRaFc

Total crypto fund inflows top US$5 billion this year, up more than 600%. Total investor inflows into cryptocurrency funds and products hit $5.6 billion so far this year, up more than 600% from 2019, according to the latest data from asset manager CoinShares. The inflows plus the latest price moves lifted assets under management for the sector to nearly US$19 billion in 2020. Assets under management ended 2019 at just US$2.57 billion. https://reut.rs/2Wz8W34

Global Equity Head at Jefferies says the investment bank will buy bitcoin and reduce exposure to gold. Christopher Wood, the global head of equity at Jefferies, a global financial services company, says the firm will reduce exposure to gold in favor of bitcoin. He adds that there are plans to increase the crypto component of Jefferies’ long-only global portfolio for U.S. dollar-denominated pension fund if and when the bitcoin price drops from current levels. As a result of this decision, 5% of the fund will now consist of bitcoin. Before making the decision, Jefferies allocated funds as follows: 50% towards (now 45%) physical gold bullion, 30% to Asia ex-Japan equities, and 20% to unhedged gold mining stocks. Writing in his weekly “Greed and Fear” note to investors, the global head of equity explains the multinational investment bank’s rationale for choosing bitcoin over gold at this stage. Wood says: The 50 percent weight in physical gold bullion in the portfolio will be reduced for the first time in several years by five percentage points with the money invested in bitcoin. If there is a big drawdown in bitcoin from the current level, after the historic breakout above the US$20,000 level, the intention will be to add to this position. Despite Jefferies’ decision to opt for bitcoin at the expense of gold, Wood remains bullish on the precious metal. He says: The yellow metal should rally again if the Fed stays dovish in the face of the dramatic cyclical recovery that is coming on the other side of the pandemic, in line with greed & fear’s base case. http://bit.ly/3nXz5ox

Anthony Scaramucci’s SkyBridge hedge fund just invested US$25 million in a bitcoin fund as it sees an ‘avalanche of institutional investors’ buying crypto in 2021. The latest institutional investor to dive into bitcoin is SkyBridge capital, Anthony Scaramucci’s hedge fund. The US$9.3 billion firm filed an SEC form D on Monday to launch the “SkyBridge Bitcoin Fund L.P.” Scaramucci told CNBC that the fund started trading on Tuesday with US$25 million of SkyBridge’s funding, and will go live to outside investors who can invest a minimum of US$50,000 on January 4. After bitcoin’s 200% rally this year, investors may be hesitant to buy the cryptocurrency right now in fear that a post-rally pullback is on the way. But Scaramucci said bitcoin is in its “early innings,” and he wants to get in before the price soars even higher. “We could be at the precursor of an avalanche of institutional investors heading in,” Scaramucci said in a Tuesday CNBC interview. He added there may be a large swath of investors buying bitcoin in the first quarter of 2021 because they didn’t want to put it on their balance sheets in 2020. http://bit.ly/38tZK5M


Sunrise brief: Congress passes solar ITC extension. The legislation provides a two-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and additional funding for research and development, including on soft costs critical to distributed energy deployment and support for access to federal lands for renewable energy projects. It included no provisions for energy storage. The solar ITC will remain at 26% for projects that begin construction in 2021 and 2022, step down to 22% in 2023, and down to 10% in 2024 for commercial projects. Residential credit ends completely. Companies beginning construction on projects in 2021 would still have a four-year period to place their projects in service to take advantage of the ITC, with the statutory deadline for projects placed in service reset to before Jan. 1, 2026. The legislation also includes a one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit/ITC for land-based wind at 60% of their full value, and a 30% offshore wind investment tax credit for projects that start construction from Jan. 1, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2025. http://bit.ly/3mNWlE1


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