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SBF’s alleged Chinese bribe, Binance clarifies account freeze: Asia Express

SBF allegedly bribes Chinese officials with $150 million to unfreeze accounts, Binance justifies blocking Hamas users, meanwhile, Huobi hacker returns…

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SBF allegedly bribes Chinese officials with $150 million to unfreeze accounts, Binance justifies blocking Hamas users, meanwhile, Huobi hacker returns all $8M in stolen assets.

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industrys most important developments.

SBFs Chinese bribe scandal worsens

According to October 11 testimony from Caroline Ellison, co-founder of FTX-linked hedge fund Alameda Research, her colleague disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried allegedly paid $150 million in bribes to Chinese government officials in 2021, higher than the $40 million disclosed initially.  

Ellison said during the FTX trial that two years prior, $1 billion worth of Alameda Researchs digital assets on crypto exchanges OKX and Huobi were frozen by Chinese law enforcement as part of a money-laundering investigation. Senior FTX executives, such as chief operations officer Constance Wang and Alameda trader David Wa, were also involved in the incident. The individuals first tried to contact a Chinese lawyer to unfreeze the funds, which didnt work. 

The disgraced FTX founder will be on trial throughout October. (Wikipedia)

Then, FTX and Alameda staff allegedly created accounts on OKX and Huobi using the identification of a Thai prostitute to negotiate the return of funds. When that didnt work out, Ellison accused Bankman-Fried of paying a $150 million bribe to unfreeze the accounts. The bribe was recorded as the thing in future Alameda balance sheets. According to Ellisons testimony, the funds were immediately unfrozen following the bribe.

Presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York reminded the jurors that Bankman-Frieds alleged bribery of Chinese officials is not within the scope of the ongoing FTX trial. Instead, a second trial relating to SBFs bribery charges has been scheduled for March 11, 2024. The FTX trial will remain ongoing for the month of October. 

Binance clarifies account freeze

Yi He, a co-founder of Binance, clarified on the Chinese social media app WeChat earlier this week that only accounts of users suspected of violating international sanctions will be frozen on the exchange. 

The statement came after a wave of inquiries in response to local news reports that the exchange froze accounts of suspected Hamas militants per Israeli law enforcements request. Yi He explained: 

Hamas is a designated terrorist organization by the United Nations. Therefore, any organization, including banks and trading platforms, will need to cooperate on the receipt of freeze requests. This is not something Binance can decide on its own.

The Binance executive commented: I have no political biases, yet no trading platform can refuse such law enforcement requests. Palestine has an organized government. Hamas is a local militant group. They kill civilians; thats the problem. Hamas is not Palestine; the freeze is targeted towards Hamas, not Palestine.

Binance co-founder Yi Hes statement on Hamas account freezes. (WeChat)

In a follow-up post on October 11, Yi He further clarified that Binance would not confiscate nor freeze assets of ordinary users. Rules are created by the strong; in the face of international regulations, Binance is a nobody. She also pointed to the fact that, despite the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the exchange has not frozen the accounts of ordinary Russians.

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Crypto lending invalidated by second Chinese court

Crypto lending contracts in China are not protected by law because the underlying asset is illegal, a second Chinese court has ruled. 

As narrated by the Nanchang Peoples Court on October 10, plaintiff Mr. Ming lent 80,000 USDT to defendant Mr. Gang in April 2021 for the purpose of stablecoin trading. The loan was to be repaid within six months. Mr. Gang subsequently defaulted on the loan, leading to a civil lawsuit by Mr. Ming. Both the lawsuit and its appeal were dismissed. 

In their decision, the presiding judge wrote: 

There are legal risks involved in participating in virtual currency investment and trading activities. If any legal person, unincorporated organization, or natural person invests in virtual currencies and related derivatives that violates public order and good customs, the relevant civil legal actions will be invalid, and the resulting losses shall be borne by them.

The judge further explained that according to various legislation forming Chinas crypto ban, virtual currencies only exist in digital form, are not legal tender, and do not have legal compensation, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, etc., and cannot be used as currency in the market. Virtual currency-related business activities are illegal financial activities that harm national financial order, financial security and social public interests, and are strictly prohibited.

The ruling does not extend to the digital yuan central bank digital currency, which the presiding judge said is a legal currency in digital form issued by the Peoples Bank of China. It is operated by designated operating agencies and redeemed by the public. It is equivalent to banknotes and coins.

Previously in August, a Chinese man lost $10 million worth of Bitcoin after the borrower defaulted on his Bitcoin lending agreement and a court ruled that the contract was invalid, citing similar reasons as the Nanchang Peoples Court. 

Chinese judge explains why the Bitcoin lending contract was invalid and therefore denied relief for breach of contract.
Chinese judge explains why the Bitcoin lending contract was invalid and therefore denied relief for breach of contract.

Huobi hacker returns all assets

According to a statement by Justin Sun, de-facto owner of cryptocurrency exchange HTX, formerly known as Huobi, a hacker has returned all of the 5,000 Ether ($8 million) stolen during a security incident last month. 

We have confirmed that the hacker has fully returned all funds, as promised, and we have also paid the hacker a white hat bonus of 250 ETH. The hacker made the right choice. We would like to express our gratitude to everyone in the industry for their help, Sun wrote. On September 25, Huobis hot wallet was hacked for 5,000 ETH in an incident first detected by blockchain analytics firm Cyvers Alerts. 

Sun subsequently offered a bounty and threatened legal action if the funds were not returned. During the incident, the blockchain personality also claimed that the exchange held around $3 billion in users assets. Last month, Huobi rebranded as HTX, raising community eyebrows due to the similarity of the name to the now-defunct crypto exchange FTX. 

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Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

During the company’s last earnings call in November, recently appointed CEO Stewart Glendinning…

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Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

During the company’s last earnings call in November, recently appointed CEO Stewart Glendinning acknowledged the company made some missteps: Among other factors, there was a misalignment between its assortment and customer demand, Retail Dive's Nate Delesline reports.

An Express storefront at King of Prussia mall in Pennsylvania. The retailer said this week that it plans to initiate an international brand expansion starting next year

Express took a hit during the pandemic as its core offering — business casual — fell out of favor as work-from-home surged.

“Unfortunately, my previous assessment of Express’ fragile financial situation leading to a possible bankruptcy due to declining revenue, gross margin profits and ballooning debt of $280 million is a foregone conclusion,” Shawn Grain Carter, a retail industry consultant and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University, said in an email to Retail Dive. “With high-interest rates, the retail company must decide between the ‘lesser of two evils.’ Moreover, until they fix the waning consumer demand for their merchandise and elevate the brand and product mix, financial wizardry will not resolve their retail woes.”

Over the past several years, the company has undergone a number of changes as it works to improve its performance. Last January, WHP Global closed on a strategic partnership with Express. The two entities formed an intellectual property joint venture under which WHP contributed $235 million for a 60% stake, while Express retained the remaining 40%. The two entities in November announced plans to expand Express internationally, including in Indonesia and Paraguay, and grow its presence in Central America and Mexico. 

And after the New York Stock Exchange warned of a potential delisting in late March, Express executed a 1-for-20 reverse stock split, which decreased outstanding shares to 3.7 million from 74.9 million. That stock split enabled Express to regain listing compliance with the New York Stock Exchange. Around the same time, Express said it planned to cut 150 jobs by the end of the third quarter.

The company also expanded its portfolio last year through a deal with WHP to acquire Bonobos from Walmart for $75 million. That acquisition helped guide the retailer to a 5% year-over-year uptick in Q3 net sales to $454.1 million from $434.1 million a year earlier. However, comparable sales for Express stores and e-commerce fell 4% and net loss grew to $36.8 million from $34.4 million in the year-ago period. Inventory was also up 14% for the quarter, rising to nearly $481 million from $422.7 million a year earlier. 

“Express has the right building blocks in place with a strong portfolio of brands, a high-potential partnership with WHP and a premier omnichannel platform,” Glendinning said in the earnings announcement. “Our efforts to unlock our full potential and improve our performance are already underway.”

The apparel retailer in late November lowered its full-year 2023 guidance, now expecting net sales to be between $1.84 billion and $1.87 billion, with Bonobos driving $150 million in net sales. 

Finally, on Friday, Bloomberg reported that at least one lender to Express has approached the retailer to put aside a pool of money for expenses tied to a potential future bankruptcy filing.

A demand to set aside so-called cash reserves, if enforced, could push Express into Chapter 11 as it would eat into limited liquidity available for necessary payments to vendors, landlords and other parties.

Creditors have been growing increasingly antsy and considering whether to push the company to file for bankruptcy, Bloomberg previously reported.

Express, which is burning through a short supply of cash as it attempts to fix troubled operations, is looking to avoid any move to fund reserves for as long as possible, other people familiar with the matter said. The retailer lost over $150 million in three quarters through late October as it faced an escalating competitive threat from fast-fashion rivals.

Tyler Durden Fri, 02/23/2024 - 18:00

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Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

During the company’s last earnings call in November, recently appointed CEO Stewart Glendinning…

Published

on

Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

During the company’s last earnings call in November, recently appointed CEO Stewart Glendinning acknowledged the company made some missteps: Among other factors, there was a misalignment between its assortment and customer demand, Retail Dive's Nate Delesline reports.

An Express storefront at King of Prussia mall in Pennsylvania. The retailer said this week that it plans to initiate an international brand expansion starting next year

Express took a hit during the pandemic as its core offering — business casual — fell out of favor as work-from-home surged.

“Unfortunately, my previous assessment of Express’ fragile financial situation leading to a possible bankruptcy due to declining revenue, gross margin profits and ballooning debt of $280 million is a foregone conclusion,” Shawn Grain Carter, a retail industry consultant and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University, said in an email to Retail Dive. “With high-interest rates, the retail company must decide between the ‘lesser of two evils.’ Moreover, until they fix the waning consumer demand for their merchandise and elevate the brand and product mix, financial wizardry will not resolve their retail woes.”

Over the past several years, the company has undergone a number of changes as it works to improve its performance. Last January, WHP Global closed on a strategic partnership with Express. The two entities formed an intellectual property joint venture under which WHP contributed $235 million for a 60% stake, while Express retained the remaining 40%. The two entities in November announced plans to expand Express internationally, including in Indonesia and Paraguay, and grow its presence in Central America and Mexico. 

And after the New York Stock Exchange warned of a potential delisting in late March, Express executed a 1-for-20 reverse stock split, which decreased outstanding shares to 3.7 million from 74.9 million. That stock split enabled Express to regain listing compliance with the New York Stock Exchange. Around the same time, Express said it planned to cut 150 jobs by the end of the third quarter.

The company also expanded its portfolio last year through a deal with WHP to acquire Bonobos from Walmart for $75 million. That acquisition helped guide the retailer to a 5% year-over-year uptick in Q3 net sales to $454.1 million from $434.1 million a year earlier. However, comparable sales for Express stores and e-commerce fell 4% and net loss grew to $36.8 million from $34.4 million in the year-ago period. Inventory was also up 14% for the quarter, rising to nearly $481 million from $422.7 million a year earlier. 

“Express has the right building blocks in place with a strong portfolio of brands, a high-potential partnership with WHP and a premier omnichannel platform,” Glendinning said in the earnings announcement. “Our efforts to unlock our full potential and improve our performance are already underway.”

The apparel retailer in late November lowered its full-year 2023 guidance, now expecting net sales to be between $1.84 billion and $1.87 billion, with Bonobos driving $150 million in net sales. 

Finally, on Friday, Bloomberg reported that at least one lender to Express has approached the retailer to put aside a pool of money for expenses tied to a potential future bankruptcy filing.

A demand to set aside so-called cash reserves, if enforced, could push Express into Chapter 11 as it would eat into limited liquidity available for necessary payments to vendors, landlords and other parties.

Creditors have been growing increasingly antsy and considering whether to push the company to file for bankruptcy, Bloomberg previously reported.

Express, which is burning through a short supply of cash as it attempts to fix troubled operations, is looking to avoid any move to fund reserves for as long as possible, other people familiar with the matter said. The retailer lost over $150 million in three quarters through late October as it faced an escalating competitive threat from fast-fashion rivals.

Tyler Durden Fri, 02/23/2024 - 18:00

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Uncategorized

Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

During the company’s last earnings call in November, recently appointed CEO Stewart Glendinning…

Published

on

Apparel Retailer Express Moving Toward Bankruptcy

During the company’s last earnings call in November, recently appointed CEO Stewart Glendinning acknowledged the company made some missteps: Among other factors, there was a misalignment between its assortment and customer demand, Retail Dive's Nate Delesline reports.

An Express storefront at King of Prussia mall in Pennsylvania. The retailer said this week that it plans to initiate an international brand expansion starting next year

Express took a hit during the pandemic as its core offering — business casual — fell out of favor as work-from-home surged.

“Unfortunately, my previous assessment of Express’ fragile financial situation leading to a possible bankruptcy due to declining revenue, gross margin profits and ballooning debt of $280 million is a foregone conclusion,” Shawn Grain Carter, a retail industry consultant and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University, said in an email to Retail Dive. “With high-interest rates, the retail company must decide between the ‘lesser of two evils.’ Moreover, until they fix the waning consumer demand for their merchandise and elevate the brand and product mix, financial wizardry will not resolve their retail woes.”

Over the past several years, the company has undergone a number of changes as it works to improve its performance. Last January, WHP Global closed on a strategic partnership with Express. The two entities formed an intellectual property joint venture under which WHP contributed $235 million for a 60% stake, while Express retained the remaining 40%. The two entities in November announced plans to expand Express internationally, including in Indonesia and Paraguay, and grow its presence in Central America and Mexico. 

And after the New York Stock Exchange warned of a potential delisting in late March, Express executed a 1-for-20 reverse stock split, which decreased outstanding shares to 3.7 million from 74.9 million. That stock split enabled Express to regain listing compliance with the New York Stock Exchange. Around the same time, Express said it planned to cut 150 jobs by the end of the third quarter.

The company also expanded its portfolio last year through a deal with WHP to acquire Bonobos from Walmart for $75 million. That acquisition helped guide the retailer to a 5% year-over-year uptick in Q3 net sales to $454.1 million from $434.1 million a year earlier. However, comparable sales for Express stores and e-commerce fell 4% and net loss grew to $36.8 million from $34.4 million in the year-ago period. Inventory was also up 14% for the quarter, rising to nearly $481 million from $422.7 million a year earlier. 

“Express has the right building blocks in place with a strong portfolio of brands, a high-potential partnership with WHP and a premier omnichannel platform,” Glendinning said in the earnings announcement. “Our efforts to unlock our full potential and improve our performance are already underway.”

The apparel retailer in late November lowered its full-year 2023 guidance, now expecting net sales to be between $1.84 billion and $1.87 billion, with Bonobos driving $150 million in net sales. 

Finally, on Friday, Bloomberg reported that at least one lender to Express has approached the retailer to put aside a pool of money for expenses tied to a potential future bankruptcy filing.

A demand to set aside so-called cash reserves, if enforced, could push Express into Chapter 11 as it would eat into limited liquidity available for necessary payments to vendors, landlords and other parties.

Creditors have been growing increasingly antsy and considering whether to push the company to file for bankruptcy, Bloomberg previously reported.

Express, which is burning through a short supply of cash as it attempts to fix troubled operations, is looking to avoid any move to fund reserves for as long as possible, other people familiar with the matter said. The retailer lost over $150 million in three quarters through late October as it faced an escalating competitive threat from fast-fashion rivals.

Tyler Durden Fri, 02/23/2024 - 18:00

Read More

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