Last week, Dow Jones rose 1.3%, S&P 500 gained 1.7%, as both indices reached new all-time highs. Nasdaq composite was up 1.4%, as it hit a fresh two-year high. The market value of Nvidia briefly touched US$2 trillion on Friday, two days after the chipmaker posted significant growth in its quarterly revenue. At the same time, Nvidia chips have become far easier to access than they were last year, and ChatGPT has seen declining web traffic in five of the past eight months and is currently down 11% from its May 2023 peak. Jeff Bezos, Nvidia, Microsoft and OpenAI are throwing serious cash at a human-like robot startup, Figure AI in a US$675 million financing. Astera Labs, a startup that’s slated to be one of the first beneficiaries of the generative AI boom, filed documents to go public. Reddit filed to list its IPO on NYSE under the ticker RDDT. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, blocked access to crypto trading platforms including Binance. Electric vehicles seem to be encountering demand headwinds, according to recent data from Ford, Mercedes-Benz and the Chinese market. In Canada, Sophic Client OneSoft reported preliminary 2023 results, and provided guidance for 2024. 2023 revenue increased 51% y/y to $10.4 million, in line with previous guidance. OneSoft issued 2024 guidance for revenue of $15 million to $16 million, Adjusted EBITDA between $1.6 million to $1.9 million, and forecasted cash at the end of 2024 of between $4.7 to $5.0 million. The Company was also recognized as a top performer by the TSX Venture Exchange in the Technology sector. Sophic Client Legend Power Systems reported Q1 F2024 financial results. “While deals have taken longer to close than initially thought, we continue to advance all deals that have previously been communicated and have not lost a single opportunity,” said Randy Buchamer, Legend Power Systems CEO.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Sophic Client OneSoft Solutions Inc. (OSS-TSXV, OSSIF-OTC) reports preliminary summary of Fiscal 2023 operations and provides Guidance for Fiscal 2024.

OneSoft’s preliminary Fiscal 2023 revenue increased 51% year-over-year to $10.4 million, essentially in line with previous guidance of $10.1 million. OneSoft’s preliminary Fiscal 2023 Adjusted EBITDA1 improved from a loss of $2.0 million to a loss of $85,000 year-over-year, essentially in line with previous guidance of a loss of $28,000. Fiscal 2023 growth was driven by continued and increasing consumption of the Company’s Cognitive Integrity Management (“CIM”) solution by existing customers and the addition of new customers. The Company expects revenue growth in 2024 to continue with similar year over year trends from existing and new customers and from sales of new software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) modules, which is expected to increase revenue per mile of pipeline assets under SaaS agreements. OneSoft is issuing Fiscal 2024 guidance for revenue of $15 million to $16 million, Adjusted EBITDA1 between $1.6 million to $1.9 million, and forecasted cash at the end of 2024 of between $4.7 to $5.0 million. https://bit.ly/3I7wxzA

Sophic Client OneSoft Solutions Inc. (OSS-TSXV, OSSIF-OTC) recognized as a top performer in 2024 TSXV Venture 50.

The Company has been recognized by the TSX Venture Exchange (“TSXV”) as one of the top-performers driving growth across the Technology sector. The Technology sector has garnered high interest from investors with a 224% average market cap appreciation and 178% average share price increase in 2023, compared to 20% and 12%, respectively, in 2022. Dwayne Kushniruk, OneSoft CEO added, “We are pleased to see the TSXV recognizing the progress we made operationally, with 50% year over year revenue growth over the past two years and the Company progressing towards cash positive operations in 2024. We appreciate the support of our stakeholders as we continue to advance revenue growth and value creation for shareholders.” https://bit.ly/3UPa566

Sophic Client Legend Power Systems Inc. (LPS-TSXV, LPSIF-OTC) reports Q1 F2024 financial results.

Revenue of $1,548 versus $403 thousand in Q1 F2023. Adjusted EBITDA loss of $964 thousand versus a $850 thousand loss in Q1 F2023. Net loss of $1.08 million versus a $1.01 million loss in Q1 F2023. Cash of $1.4 million, no debt, and $2.8 million in working capital at December 31, 2023. “While deals have taken longer to close than initially thought, we continue to advance all deals that have previously been communicated and have not lost a single opportunity,” said Randy Buchamer, Legend Power Systems CEO. “As we work to close deals, our pipeline continues to grow. We are managing our cash carefully and expect to receive deposits that will help with working capital going forward. I look forward to being able to update investors as these deals are finalized in the coming quarters.”. https://bit.ly/3T9F4s8

Golden Ventures closes nearly $140 million for fifth seed-stage VC fund.

Toronto-based Golden Ventures has secured about US$103 million ($139 million) for its fifth venture capital fund focused on seed-stage technology startups across North America. The sector-agnostic VC firm plans to make 30 core investments in startups across Canada and the United States (US) through Fund V, which it will begin investing out of later this year. Golden will focus on leading or co-leading rounds across the seed spectrum, companies in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Montréal, and Vancouver, with initial cheques of $500,000 to $3 million. http://tinyurl.com/5bt6nw3e

Ontario companies receiving $17.2 million in federal funding to commercialize quantum solutions.

Twelve Ontario quantum tech companies are receiving a combined $17.2 million in repayable funding from the federal government. Spanning from the Greater Toronto Area through the Waterloo Region to Ottawa, the companies received funding amounts ranging from $113,000 to over $3 million. The investments, being made through FedDev Ontario through the Regional Quantum Initiative, are aimed at supporting the commercialization of various quantum products. The federal government launched its $360-million National Quantum Strategy early last year. Canada has been looking to up its quantum game in recent years. The government said these latest investments are part of its $360 million National Quantum Strategy, which launched earlier last year. Toronto-based Xanadu is receiving $3.75 million as part of this investment to help the company advance its PennyLane quantum programming software. Xanadu became a Canadian unicorn in November 2022 when it raised US$100 million in Series C financing. Waterloo-based High Q Technologies has also received a $3.75-million repayable investment to support product enhancements as the startup launches its systems into the pharmaceutical sector to aid in the process of discovering new medicine. Toronto-based biotechnology startup ProteinQure has received $700,000 in federal funding to bring quantum computing into the company’s existing platform, which uses artificial intelligence to discover new medicines. ProteinQure has previously received investments from 8VC, Golden Ventures, Inovia Capital, and Global Founders Capital. Other funding recipients include Toronto companies AI Incorporated, CogniFrame, Good Labs Studio, and Qoherent; Ottawa companies Crypto4A and Quantropi; and Waterloo Region companies Foqus, ForeQast, and ISARA. Ottawa’s funding comes a few months after French quantum computing firm PASQAL launched a $90 million initiative within Québec-based DistriQ to conduct quantum computing research, manufacturing and commercialization activities in Sherbrooke, Québec. http://tinyurl.com/4hhejwv7

Helius raises $12.8 million to help devs build blockchain apps on Solana.

Toronto-based Helius, which has built a developer platform for crypto applications, has raised $12.8 million in Series A financing. The round was led by Foundation Capital, with participation from returning investors Reciprocal Ventures and Chapter One, and new investors 6th Man Ventures, Propel, and a number of Solana ecosystem founders. This latest round brings Helius’ to just shy of US$13 million. In the last six months, a number of Web3 startups in Canada have closed financing rounds, including Toronto-based Hivello, Uniblock, and Ted Livingston-founded Code. Just this week, Round13 Capital, which manages a Digital Asset Fund, announced it had posted gains of more than 40 percent despite the recent downturn. http://tinyurl.com/865eeeab

Helika closes $10.8-million Series A for Web3 gaming analytics platform.

Toronto-based Helika has closed a $10.8-million Series A round as it looks to expand its Web3 gaming analytics platform. Helika says Yuga Labs, the studio behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT series, is one of its customers. The oversubscribed equity round, which closed last week, was led by blockchain venture fund Pantera Capital with participation from returning investors Sparkle Ventures, Diagram Ventures, and Sfermion. Helika claims to have surpassed seven figures in revenue in under a year and has raised US$12.5 million in funding to date. http://tinyurl.com/3w3by9hf

Profitable payments startup Zūm Rails closes $10.5 million Series A.

Bootstrapped since 2019, Montréal-based FinTech startup Zūm Rails has now raised $10.5 million in Series A financing for its payments platform that seeks to merge open banking with instant payments. The all-equity Series A round, led by sole investor Arthur Ventures, will be used to scale Zūm Rails’ platform in the United States and grow its solution with new banking-as-a-service (BaaS) capabilities. Zūm Rails currently boasts over 200 customers, including Questrade, Coinsquare, and Desjardins, and works with financial services giants like Visa, Mastercard, and Fiserv. The startup achieved $10 million in annual recurring revenue last year. In the fourth quarter of 2023, Zūm Rails launched in the United States, buoyed by an integration with FinTech giant Fiserv that allows it to offer conventional card acceptance, real-time payment processing, and distribution services under one gateway. http://tinyurl.com/948d444c

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Nvidia market cap briefly tops US$2 trillion.

The market value of Nvidia briefly touched US$2 trillion on Friday, two days after the chipmaker posted significant growth in its quarterly revenue thanks to voracious demand for its artificial intelligence chips. Only Microsoft and Apple have larger market capitalizations. The company reported quarterly revenue rose 265% to US$22.1 billion in the quarter that ended Jan. 31 and US$11.2 billion in free cash flow. Nvidia’s H100 are the most advanced graphics processing units for cloud services providers who are racing to develop AI infrastructure for their customers. Founded over three decades ago the semiconductor company first crossed US$1 trillion in June 2023 but has quickly rallied to the next trillion-dollar mark as it projects continued strong revenue growth. http://tinyurl.com/pd7depn9

Nvidia GPU buyers offload chips as supply crunch cools.

Companies that use Nvidia’s specialized artificial intelligence semiconductors say the chips have become far easier to access than they were last year, The Information reported on Friday. And as a result, some people who bought as many GPUs as they could during the height of the frenzy are now looking to offload some of their supply, which is expensive to keep if it isn’t being used. GPU buyers are also reducing their orders and being more picky about the price they are willing to pay to rent the chips. It all marks a big difference from just a few months ago, when startups and investors were going to great lengths to access Nvidia GPUs. “There was this sense of panic and scarcity. People talked about being GPU poor” in mid-2023, said Sarah Guo, founder of Conviction, an early-stage VC firm focused on AI startups. Of course, the crunch hasn’t resolved for everyone. Companies that are training their own large language models, such as OpenAI, are still struggling to get enough AI chips. http://tinyurl.com/2y9k9wpb

ChatGPT’s growth is flatlining. ChatGPT is stagnating.

The megahit chatbot from OpenAI has seen declining web traffic in five of the past eight months and is currently down 11% from its May 2023 peak. Its mobile app, meanwhile, is going nowhere fast, with fewer total users than Snapchat added last quarter alone. The new data, from analytics firm Similarweb, indicates Now, as growth tails off, the company will have to press harder on its other efforts, and ask why its flagship product couldn’t sustain its rapid acceleration. ChatGPT hit its traffic peak in May 2023 with 1.8 billion web visits, but tailed off during the summer. By August 2023, visits were down 21% from its high and they haven’t recovered since. Some explained away the summer dip as a temporary pause due to students leaving school, but after an early-fall rally, ChatGPT usage dropped by more than 3% in November and 7% in December. In January 2024, its 1.6 billion visits amounted to an 11% decline in traffic from its peak and stagnant growth since mid-2023. These numbers are big, but for scale: Bing, with just 3.4% of the global search market, received 1.3 billion visits in January. ChatGPT’s mobile app, meanwhile, hasn’t taken off. The app debuted with 4.3 million U.S. users in July 2023 but only increased to 6.3 million U.S. users by January 2024. Snapchat, by comparison, added 8 million daily users in the fourth quarter of 2023, growing from 406 million to 414 million. OpenAI did not reply to a request for comment. The stagnation of ChatGPT doesn’t suggest an end to OpenAI, but rather an imperative to evolve. The research house, which could be worth US$100 billion, introduced an astounding video generation model called Sora on Thursday that shows a way forward. In an ultra-competitive AI race, where Google’s Gemini just equaled GPT-4’s capabilities, OpenAI will have to pump out hits to stay ahead. Sora, which drew rave reviews as OpenAI CEO Sam Altman demonstrated its capabilities on X, is exactly that type of innovation. http://tinyurl.com/ydrxjzk2

Jeff Bezos and Nvidia are throwing serious cash at a human-like robot startup.

Figure AI Inc. is raising about US$675 million in funding with the help of investors like Jeff Bezos and the Microsoft Corporation, according to a Friday Bloomberg report, citing people familiar with the situation. The artificial intelligence startup aims to create autonomous humanoid workers that can support labor shortages amid a waning workforce, the company’s website says. The machine, called Figure 01, is an AI-powered, self-reliant robot with the ability to think, learn, and interact safely alongside humans, according to the company. The robots will be tasked with performing dangerous warehouse jobs for which there aren’t enough workers. Other big backers include OpenAI, which once thought about acquiring Figure, according to Bloomberg, as well as Nvidia Corp. http://tinyurl.com/df4tzhpm

Astera Labs increases revenue 50% ahead of IPO.

Astera Labs, a startup that’s slated to be one of the first beneficiaries of the generative AI boom, filed documents to go public, cashing in on intense investor interest in AI technology. In documents laying out its IPO plans, Astera said its revenue rose 45% to US$115.8 million last year while its losses narrowed to US$26.3 million from US$58.4 million. The 265-person company sells server components used in data centers, including those that power AI computing, and counts Amazon Web Services and Microsoft among its customers. Buoyed by demand for AI computing, the startup is expected to generate between US$250 million and US$300 million in revenue this year, The Information previously reported. Among the risks to its growth, Astera said it’s vulnerable to any adverse U.S.-China trade policy since most majority of its revenue comes from distributors in East Asia, particularly China, Taiwan and South Korea. The eight-year-old startup was valued at US$3.15 billion during its last funding round in 2022 and counts Sutter Hill Ventures and Fidelity Management among its major shareholders. Based on Astera’s revenue and the revenue multiple of publicly-traded semiconductor company Credo Technologies, Astera could be worth as much as US$4 billion in an IPO. The company also disclosed that in 2022 had sold warrants to buy its stock to a unit of Amazon, contingent on the company buying US$400 million in its products. http://tinyurl.com/ycxyxmse

Reddit files to list IPO on NYSE under the ticker RDDT.

Social media company Reddit filed its IPO prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday after a yearslong run-up. The company plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “RDDT.” Its market debut, expected in March, will be the first major tech initial public offering of the year. It’s the first social media IPO since Pinterest went public in 2019. Reddit said it had US$804 million in annual sales for 2023, up 20% from the US$666.7 million it brought in the previous year, according to the filing. The social networking company’s core business is reliant on online advertising sales stemming from its website and mobile app. Reddit has more than 100,000 communities, 73 million average daily active uniques, or DAUq, and 267 million average weekly active uniques, according to the filing. As of the fourth quarter of 2023, Reddit’s U.S. average revenue per user, or ARPU, was US$5.51, down from US$5.92 from the previous year. The company’s global ARPU was US$3.42, which was a 2% year-over-year decline from US$3.49. Reddit said that by 2027 it estimates the “total addressable market globally from advertising, excluding China and Russia, to be US$1.4 trillion.” Reddit said the current addressable advertising market is US$1.0 trillion, sans China and Russia. http://tinyurl.com/yw2p929e

Reddit user content being sold to AI company in US$60 million / year deal.

It’s being reported that a deal has been struck to allow an unnamed large AI company to use Reddit user content for training purposes. The deal is said to be worth around US$60 million per year and comes at a time when the company is seeking to maximize its value in the run-up to an IPO. Reddit has signed a contract allowing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) company to train its models on the social media platform’s content, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. http://tinyurl.com/3n7mpzwt

Walmart to acquire TV maker Vizio for US$2.3 billion.

Walmart said Tuesday that it’s acquiring television company Vizio for US$2.3 billion in a move that the retail giant said will bolster its advertising business. Owning Vizio would give Walmart more advertising inventory to sell and more customer data to use when targeting ads. It could help Walmart compete with Amazon, which is also seeking to grow its video advertising business, including by adding commercials to Prime Video last month. Shares of Walmart were up 4.4% at US$170.36 early Tuesday. Vizio stock was up 15.3% at US$10.99, below the proposed acquisition price of US$11.50 per share. Walmart’s potential Vizio acquisition was first reported by the Wall Street Journal last week. http://tinyurl.com/f485cwta

Amazon replaces Walgreens in Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Amazon will replace Walgreens in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the manager of the popular stock market index said Tuesday. S&P Dow Jones Indices, which decides which stocks to include in the Dow, attributed Amazon’s addition to a recent stock split by Walmart, which is still included in the index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average already includes some large tech firms, including Microsoft and Apple, but does not include Google parent Alphabet. Amazon’s inclusion will prompt asset managers that run mutual funds and exchange-traded funds mirroring the Dow to buy Amazon shares and sell Walgreens shares. Amazon shares jumped 1.2% following the news, while Walgreens stock fell 2.9%. http://tinyurl.com/2p9rsc73

Palo Alto Networks stock plunges as firm offers free security software to win customers.

Palo Alto Networks stock crashed 27% on Wednesday after the cybersecurity firm said on Tuesday evening that it would offer its cybersecurity software for free for several months to customers who switch away from rivals. Palo Alto Networks is making the offer in an effort to win more business for its all-in-one security offering, the company announced on Tuesday. The announcement came as the company reported slowing revenue growth in its quarterly earnings on Tuesday and projected that its billings would grow just 3% in the coming quarter, compared to more than 16% in the past three quartershttp://tinyurl.com/2s3sw8px

PDD shares fall after report of lawmakers’ calls for Temu shipment ban.

Shares of Temu parent company PDD Holdings fell on Friday afternoon following a report from The Information that some U.S. lawmakers are pushing government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security to add Temu to a list of violators of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Inclusion on the list would effectively ban goods sold on Temu from being shipped to the U.S., where the shopping site has seen explosive growth since its 2022 launch. Shares fell as much as 5% during afternoon trading following the report, and closed down around 3%. http://tinyurl.com/233vru2d

Block outlook tops earnings estimates, boosting shares 12%.

Shares in Jack Dorsey-led Block surged 12% on Thursday after the payments firm forecast adjusted core earnings for the current quarter above Wall Street estimates, betting on continued consumer resilience and its cost-cutting measures. http://tinyurl.com/nhfdrsvb

Emerging Technologies

Zuckerberg: Neural wristband for AR/VR input will ship “In the next few years”.

Appearing on the Morning Brew Daily talk show on Friday, Mark Zuckerberg said “we’re actually kind of close to having something here that we’re going to have in a product in the next few years”. In late 2019 Facebook acquired a New York based startup called CTRL Labs, which had been working on the idea of a finger tracking wristband since at least 2015, though an early 2019 patent filing suggests Facebook was already working on it too internally. While headsets like Meta Quest and Apple Vision Pro are already capable of tracking your fingers optically using computer vision, this approach has limited accuracy and relatively high latency. It’s also prone to occlusion issues, and performs worse in dimmer lighting. An entirely different approach to finger tracking is to sense the neural electrical signals passing through your wrist to your fingers from your brain, using a technique called electromyography (EMG). Theoretically this could have zero or even negative latency, perfect accuracy, work regardless of lighting conditions, and not be subject to occlusion. Occlusion-free finger tracking of this quality and reliability could enable precise control of complex interfaces with incredibly subtle movements of your hand resting on your lap, making it an ideal input method for headsets and AR glasses. In early 2023 an internal Meta AR/VR hardware roadmap leaked to The Verge, revealing details about Quest 3, the existence of the headset now rumored to be called Quest 3 Lite, and the cancelation of the 2024 candidate for Quest Pro 2 in favor of a more ambitious but “way out” model. But this roadmap also mentioned that Meta was planning to release the neural wristband alongside the third generation Ray-Ban smartglasses in 2025 as the input method. It’s possible Apple could also ship this technology in a future version of its Watch product line, though there have been no reports so far of Apple working on wrist EMG. http://tinyurl.com/bdtnj3z9

Apple Vision Pro 2 at least 18 months away.

In the latest edition of his “Power On” newsletter, Gurman said that Apple is likely at least a year and a half away from the release of the second-generation Vision Pro headset, placing launch in late August 2025 at the earliest. http://tinyurl.com/3d5jhr95

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

YouTube dominates TV streaming in US, per Nielsen’s latest report.

Nielsen released its January report on viewing usage across linear TV and streaming, which revealed that YouTube is once again the overall top streaming service in the U.S., with 8.6% of viewing on television screens. Netflix, meanwhile, saw 7.9% of TV usage. The new data points to YouTube’s dominance in the TV streaming arena and marks 12 consecutive months of the platform being in the top spot. http://tinyurl.com/52tu25m4

Apple Sports: new free app provides real-time scores and stats, designed to drive Apple TV tune-in.

Game on! Apple launched a free standalone app for sports fans, Apple Sports, which is engineered to fire scores and stats to your iPhone as quickly as possible. The business case? The app also is designed to drive viewership to the Apple TV app to watch live sports — including all Major League Soccer matches, which are available through Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass subscription add-on under an exclusive 10-year worldwide deal the tech company struck with the league. The initial version works only on iPhones (running iOS 17.2 or later). Apple is releasing Apple Sports as a standalone app (rather than as a feature in, say, Apple News) in order to deliver real-time scores and updates as rapidly as possible. Alongside game scores, the Apple Sports app displays live betting odds for each game, although users can turn those off if they don’t want to see them, as well as current game clock, play-by-play information, team stats and lineup details. http://tinyurl.com/mtbsj5ys

Fubo TV sues Disney, Fox and Warner to block sports streaming joint venture.

Fubo TV has filed a lawsuit to block the new sports-streaming joint venture announced by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery. In the lawsuit, Fubo claims that the JV’s three owners engaged in a years-long campaign to harm Fubo’s business by employing anti-competitive practices such as forcing Fubo to carry non-sports TV channels in expensive bundles that customers did not want. Fubo also alleges that the three media companies charged Fubo much higher carriage fees than other pay-TV distributors. The upcoming sports JV is an existential threat to Fubo, which built its live pay-TV streaming service on the premise that it could offer sports fans all of the sports channels and games they would want to watch. The new JV from Disney, Fox and WBD plans to offer access to most live sports including from the NFL, NBA, college football and the NHL, at a likely price point of US$40 to US$50 per month. This would severely undercut Fubo’s cheapest English-language package of US$79.99 per month. http://tinyurl.com/yeynxz3e

Roblox game developers earned a record US$741 million last year.

In 2023, Roblox Corp. paid out a record US$740.8 million to game creators, according a company filing on Wednesday, an increase of roughly 19% from the US$623.9 million the year before. By acquiring Robux, the platform’s digital currency, players can purchase all manner of digital items inside of the games like pet unicorns or stylish clothing. Currently, developers get US$0.0035 for every Robux spent on their games. Last year, nearly a hundred Roblox titles brought in over US$1 million in sales each, according to the filing. Nine generated at least US$10 million. Over 12,000 developers exchanged Robux for real world currency. Some 3,500 earned over US$10,000, and about 750 over US$100,000. During Roblox’s early days, many of its games were made by enterprising kids. Stories about teenagers making hit games abound. Some 58% of players are 16 years or younger. In recent years, Roblox has grown into such a lucrative outlet that professional game studios have emerged catering to its players. In 2022, Los Angeles-based Gamefam Studios raised US$25 million to make Roblox games. A record 68 million average daily active users generated US$3.5 billion in bookings on Roblox last year, even as players spent slightly less per person than at the peak of the pandemic. According to the company’s figures, Roblox’s top 10 games absorbed 30% of players’ time. http://tinyurl.com/y5kwr97h

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

EU to fine Apple US$538 million over Antitrust breach.

The European Commission will fine Apple 500 million euros, or US$538 million, for breaching European antitrust laws related to App Store rules and rival music streaming services such as Spotify, the Financial Times reported last Sunday. The European regulator for several years has been investigating how Apple’s App Store rules favor Apple Music over rival services. http://tinyurl.com/3bev3e2k

European Commission opens inquiry into TikTok over risk of addiction.

The European Commission said on Monday it had opened “formal proceedings to assess whether TikTok” had breached the Digital Services Act on various grounds, including how the ByteDance-owned social media app manages risks related to “addictive design and harmful content.” http://tinyurl.com/3cj96zyp

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Binance blocked from Nigeria in crypto trading crackdown.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has blocked access to crypto trading platforms including Binance to curb currency speculation that has pressured the local currency, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. A Binance spokesperson said some of its users are “experiencing issues accessing” its website. The government’s telecom authority also directed telecom providers to restrict access to Coinbase and Kraken, according to the Financial Times. The news represents a temporary blow to Binance and other multinational exchanges, which handle an estimated US$2 billion in monthly cryptocurrency trading activity in Nigeria, according to data from Chainalysis. The U.S. has already severely restricted the activities of Binance and its U.S. affiliate. The government’s decision comes less than six months after the country reversed a ban on crypto-related transactions. Nigeria is struggling to increase confidence in its local currency, the naira. As inflation surged and the naira declined over 200% over the last year, digitally savvy Nigerians have resorted to stablecoins such as Tether’s USDT to complete international payments and hedge against further slides in the currency. A coalition of domestic crypto platform providers accused Binance of worsening the currency crisis because its “platform does not require merchants to possess the [local currency] they offer to sell on the platform” which leads to more “speculative trading that inflates trade volumes at these rates,” the coalition wrote in a document seen by The Information. Binance pushed back against these claims, saying in a statement that it has “stringent measures” in place to protect the integrity of the market. http://tinyurl.com/wxs5k8ac


Nvidia identifies Huawei as top competitor for the first time in filing.

Nvidia identified Huawei as a top competitor in several categories, including artificial intelligence chips, for the first time in a filing with the Securities and Exchange commission late Wednesday. The Santa Clara, California-based company said that China’s Huawei competes in supplying chips designed for artificial intelligence such as graphics processing units (GPUs), central processing units (CPUs) and networking chips. The company also identified Huawei as a cloud service company designing its own hardware and software to improve AI computing. Last year, Reuters reported that Chinese search giant Baidu placed a chip order with Huawei ahead of widely anticipated new rules by the U.S. government tightened restrictions on advanced AI chips exported to China. http://tinyurl.com/3zk36sp6

Samsung sells down entire ASML stake to expand in new arenas.

Samsung sold its entire remaining stake in ASML in the December quarter as part of its push to expand into new areas of chipmaking. The world’s largest memory maker sold about 1.58 million shares, or 0.4%, of ASML, according to its most recent quarterly financial report filed to regulators. The stake was valued at around 1.26 trillion won (US$930 million) as of the end of September, an earlier company filing showed. http://tinyurl.com/4ska8u9n


Zero-carbon energy generated a record 41% of US power in 2023.

High interest rates and volatile global supply chains didn’t stop the US green-energy transition from reaching new heights in 2023. A record amount of renewable energy, led by solar, was added to the grid. Customers bought nearly 1.5 million electric vehicles, a 50% jump over the previous year. Investments in getting the power and transportation sectors, among others, off fossil fuels hit a record US$303 billion. The US was the second-largest investor in the energy transition in 2023, after China. Yet the global investment of US$1.8 trillion still isn’t enough to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to nearly zero by 2050 — a goal countries agreed to in order to curb the climate crisis. Financing needs to more than double to US$4.8 trillion a year. Solar shined, wind faltered, and gas was still king. BloombergNEF found that large-scale solar farms and rooftop panels were built at a record clip in 2023. A flood of solar panels imported from Southeast Asia helped meet demand, in part because the Biden administration waived tariffs on those imports. It was the opposite story for wind power. Companies either canceled or are trying to renegotiate more than half of all the new offshore-wind capacity that was planned in 2023. Developers cited high interest rates and supply-chain delays. These challenges remain this year, but East Coast states, including New York and Massachusetts, are still awarding new contracts. Solar, wind, and nuclear — which don’t produce emissions — are taking a larger share of the energy pie. They generated a record 41% of US power in 2023. But natural gas is still the largest source and set its own record last year http://tinyurl.com/2e2x7xwc

Even the world’s biggest electric-vehicle market is slowing.

Chinese electric-vehicle makers that enjoyed years of explosive growth now face a slowdown in domestic demand, spurring them to push overseas and challenge global auto giants already struggling with a transition to battery-powered cars. A subsidies-driven boom in past years helped China sell more electric cars than Europe and the U.S. combined. The sales surge created a wave of investment into homegrown automakers that have become the envy of the global industry. A deceleration in the China market, after subsidies were reduced and consumers cut back spending, means the growth rate there has fallen behind those two regions. The slowdown has fueled a fierce price war in China embroiling dozens of EV startups and foreign players such as Tesla. Many Chinese EV makers burned through cash to chase a share of the growing market. Many are yet to turn a profit despite rising sales, leaving some at risk of going bust or needing injections of capital. Slower growth also leaves an industry geared up to make millions more cars than it can sell domestically in the next few years. China’s government has acknowledged overcapacity and underused factories,and is pushing automakers to expand overseas. Analysts say that trend could lead to oversupply at home and abroad. https://archive.is/l9zhL

Ford cuts prices on electric Mustang as demand softens for premium EVs.

Ford is cutting prices of its all-electric 2023 Mustang Mach-E by has much as US$8,100 as the automaker attempts to rid itself of inventory and compete with Tesla and its increasingly cheaper EVs. Total market share of new EV sales has grown, reaching nearly 8% in U.S. in 2023. But as market share has expanded, the consumer base has shifted from early adopters to early majority — a group unwilling to pay a premium for EVs, Ford CFO John Lawler told TechCrunch in an interview earlier this month. The price cuts come after the Mach-E lost eligibility for a US$3,750 tax credit and sales of the all-electric SUV fell 51% in January versus the same month in 2023. Overall EV sales were down 11% from January last year. http://tinyurl.com/26c67thr

Mercedes-Benz backs off plan to only sell EVs by 2030.

Mercedes-Benz is backing off its plan to only sell electric vehicles after 2030, the company said Thursday. It was the latest evidence that the global auto industry is feeling more dour about the all-electric future after a slowdown in sales growth. It was only three years ago that Mercedes was feeling quite bullish about plug-in powertrains, saying that by 2030 it would only sell EVs. At the time, the company said it would completely phase out gas-powered vehicles, while including the caveat “where markets allowed.” EV sales hit nearly 8 percent of the total number in the US last year, while in Europe they represented 13 percent. Sales are still growing, but customers are becoming more discerning about price, while expressing concern about charging time and reliability. Meanwhile, hybrid sales have increased significantly, as more people see the benefit of hedging their bets while the charging infrastructure gets built out. http://tinyurl.com/5a3d62tx


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