On Our Radar: Deals we are paying attention to, for their impact on industry.
Earlier this month, Facebook quietly set up a company in Switzerland, according to a Reuters report. If the social media’s foray into Blockchain payment succeeds, analysts say it might have a massive impact in developing countries where billions of users don’t have access to regular banking.
While Facebook is receiving a lot of privacy and data misuse criticism in the U.S., the embattled social media giant’s latest venture may actually bring cryptocurrency usage to more than 2.5 billion of its global users, analysts say.
Libra Networks, which was registered in Geneva on May 2, continues Facebook’s initiative into Blockchain and payments and is the latest confirmation of its cryptocurrency ambitions.
Facebook is feeling the pressure to diversify its revenue, and cryptocurrency is one of a handful of strategies being tested, says Jitendra Waral, a senior research analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in an interview with Karma.
“If it’s successful, it does open up opportunities to connect the unbanked population,” said Waral, noting that it’s still too early to assess the new company’s impact.
Facebook is not the only tech giant who’s looking to disrupt global digital payments industry. Apple launched Apple Card in partnership with Goldman Sachs in March. In China, messaging app WeChat has almost replaced cash after it successfully persuaded people to bring money into the app by virtually mimicking the culture’s “red envelope” tradition of giving cash.
Facebook has been toying with developing its own cryptocurrency, pegged to the U.S. dollar, and seeking up to $1 billion in backing from financial institutions including Visa and Mastercard, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The digital coin will focus first on India’s $69 billion remittance market through the WhatsApp messaging app, which has more than 200 million users in the country, according to Bloomberg.
Facebook’s foray into payments comes amid increased scrutiny of Facebook’s handling of user information. The U.S. banking committee wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier this month, questioning how the new cryptocurrency-based payment system will meet legal requirements and consumer information.
Setting up a company in Switzerland helps Facebook reduce its obligations under GILTI, tax, the new tax designed to reduce the incentive to shift corporate profits outside the U.S., Bloomberg analyst Andrew Silverman told Karma.
“The more tangible assets that a U.S. company moves outside of the U.S. and the more foreign tax credits a company earns outside of the U.S., the lower the GILTI gets,” he said.
With its 2.5 billion user base and technological advantage, Facebook has the potential to spark massive cryptocurrency adoption and secure dominant position in the digital payments space in developing countries.