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Crypto startup Ripple is seeking a license in Ireland to drive EU expansion

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In this photo illustration of the ripple cryptocurrency ‘altcoin’ sits arranged for a photograph on April 25, 2018 in London, England. 

Jack Taylor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

U.S.-based crypto company Ripple no longer derives most of its income from America and is looking to expand its reach in Europe, its top lawyer said.

Speaking in an interview with CNBC earlier this week, Ripple General Counsel Stuart Alderoty said that “effectively, Ripple is operating outside of the U.S.” today due to the fallout from its extensive legal fight with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Essentially, its customers and its revenue are all driven outside of the U.S., even though we still have a lot of employees inside of the U.S.,” he added.

At the same time, Ripple is expanding its presence in Europe.

The startup has two employees on the ground in the Republic of Ireland currently. It is seeking a virtual asset service provider (VASP) license from the Irish central bank so that it can “passport” its services throughout the Eurpean Union via an entity based there, Alderoty told CNBC.

Ripple also plans to file an application for an electronic money license in Ireland “shortly.” Its commitment to invest in Europe comes despite a deep downturn in crypto markets that’s been referred to as “crypto winter.”

Crypto has never just been sunshine and roses and it's an industry that needs to mature, Ripple CEO says

The Irish central bank previously handed a VASP license to crypto exchange Gemini.

Ripple, which helps financial institutions move money around the world using blockchain technology, has over 750 employees globally, with roughly half of them based in the U.S. About 60 are based in its London office, which Alderoty was visiting this week during a trip to the U.K. for its annual Swell event.

SEC ruling expected in 2023

In 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission initiated a lawsuit against Ripple alleging the company and its executives illegally sold XRP, a cryptocurrency its founders created in 2012, to investors without first registering it as a security.

Ripple disputes the claim, saying the token should not be considered an investment contract and is used in its business to facilitate cross-border transactions between banks and other financial institutions.

Alderoty said he expects a ruling on the case to arrive in the first half of 2023. Final legal briefs are due by Nov. 30, after which a judge can either make a ruling or refer it to a jury trial if they find there are any issues of disputed fact.

“We are at the beginning of the end of the process in our case,” Alderoty said.

As part of the proceedings, Ripple fought to obtain documents related to a June 2018 speech from former SEC official Bill Hinman, which it says has aided its case. In the speech, Hinman says that sales of ether, a rival token, “are not securities transactions.”

Despite its tense dispute with the SEC, Ripple is still “work very closely with policymakers in the U.S.,” Alderoty said.

XRP was once the third-largest cryptocurrency, commanding a $120 billion market value in early 2018. It has dropped sharply since, however, amid U.S. regulatory scrutiny and a wider downturn in bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Last week, the shock collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange FTX sent cryptocurrencies into a tailspin. Bankman-Fried’s investment firm allegedly used FTX client funds to make risky trades, CNBC reported previously. The company spiraled into a liquidity crisis as customers demanded withdrawals and rival exchange Binance scrapped its nonbinding agreement to buy the company.

Bankman-Fried has said he got “overconfident” and “careless” as he grew FTX into a $32 billion juggernaut. He said that, to the best of his knowledge, he thought FTX had built up around $5 billion of leverage, when in actuality it was around $13 billion.

Alderoty said FTX’s bankruptcy was “a call to action for responsible economic centers to work to get it right.”

What the FTX collapse means for crypto market liquidity

On Wednesday, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse told CNBC that the idea that crypto is not regulated is “overstated.” But, he added, “transparency builds trust.”

“Crypto has never just been sunshine and roses and as an industry, it needs to mature,” Garlinghouse said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

Ripple is unlikely to refer to the FTX collapse and how it was handled by regulators in its case, Alderoty added.

Some of the confusion surrounding XRP stems from the company’s part ownership of the token. Ripple previously held as much as 60% of the XRP tokens in circulation. It has since reduced that amount to below half, or 49%, according to Alderoty.

Ripple generates a chunk of its sales by releasing its supply of XRP on the open market. For the last three years, it only has only sold XRP to enterprise customers rather than retail traders, Alderoty said.

As a private company, Ripple doesn’t disclose its revenues publicly. This year, the firm processed $10 billion in cross-border transactions with payment providers and other financial institutions using XRP, a token it is closely associated with.

Ripple, the company, was last valued by investors at $15 billion. XRP has a market capitalization of $19 billion, according to CoinMarketCap data.

Europe expansion

Ripple’s European expansion drive comes in anticipation of the EU’s MiCA crypto regulations going into effect in the coming years. MiCA seeks to align rules on crypto assets across the 27-member bloc. It was passed by EU lawmakers earlier this year.

The EU has said it may still need to come up with a separate regime for nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, a specific type of digital asset that tracks ownership of art and other assets on the blockchain.

“I think MiCA’s a very good start,” Alderoty said.

The U.K. is also a priority. Ripple on Monday released a set of guidelines outlining how it thinks Britain should regulate crypto.

A bill is making its way through the U.K. Parliament that would give the financial regulator greater oversight of crypto, however this is yet to become law.

Crypto executives are hoping Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is a fan of crypto and so-called “Web3,” will issue regulatory clarity to make the country a more attractive place for businesses to set up shop.

Crypto enthusiasts want to remake the internet with 'Web3.' Here's what that means


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Two children and two adults survive after Tesla plunges 250 feet off California cliff

View from the helicopter during a rescue operation after a vehicle carrying two adults and two children went over a cliff in Devil’s Slide, San Mateo county, California, U.S., January 2, 2023, plunging hundreds of feet, according to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, in this still image obtained from social media video.

CHP – Golden Gate Division | Reuters

Two adults and two children were rescued from a Tesla that plunged 250 feet off a cliff Monday morning in San Mateo County, California, officials said. 

The car was traveling southbound on the Pacific Coast Highway when it went over the cliff at Devil’s Slide, south of the Tom Lantos tunnel, and landed near the water’s edge below, the Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit said. 

The car flipped and landed on its wheels in the fall, CAL FIRE/Coastside Fire Incident Commander Brian Pottenger said. Witnesses saw the accident and called 911. 

As crews were lowered down, they were able to see movement in the front seat, through their binoculars, meaning someone was alive.

“We were actually very shocked when we found survivable victims in the vehicle. So, that actually was a really hopeful moment for us,” Pottenger said. 

Fire officials called for helicopters to help hoist the survivors to safety. As they waited, firefighters rappelled to the scene and rescued the two children.

Rescue teams are seen at the scene as a Tesla with four occupants plunged over a cliff on Pacific Coast Highway 1 at Devils Slide on January 2, 2022 in San Mateo County, California, United States.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The California Highway Patrol shared video on social media showing helicopters lower first responders to the scene to extricate and rescue two adults inside. 

All four were hospitalized. The San Mateo Sheriff’s Office said the two adults suffered non-life-threatening injuries and the two children were unharmed.

It’s not clear what caused the car to go over the cliff. CHP is handling the investigation. 

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Tesla shares tumble more than 10% following deliveries report

Tesla vehicles are shown at a sales and service center in Vista, California, June 3, 2022.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Shares of Tesla dropped 13% on Tuesday morning, a day after the electric auto maker reported fourth-quarter vehicle production and delivery numbers for 2022.

Deliveries are the closest approximation of sales disclosed by Tesla. The company reported 405,278 total deliveries for the quarter and 1.31 million total deliveries for the year. These numbers represented a record for the Elon Musk-led automaker and growth of 40% in deliveries year over year, but they fell shy of analysts’ expectations.

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According to a consensus of analysts’ estimates compiled by FactSet, as of Dec. 31, 2022, Wall Street was expecting Tesla to report around 427,000 deliveries for the final quarter of the year. Estimates updated in December, and included in the FactSet consensus, ranged from 409,000 to 433,000.

Those more recent estimates were in line with a company-compiled consensus distributed by Tesla investor relations Vice President Martin Viecha. 

Some Wall Street analysts think Tesla’s deliveries miss spells trouble for the electric vehicle maker, but others see a buying opportunity for the company in 2023.

Baird analyst Ben Kallo, who recently named Tesla a top pick for 2023, maintained an outperform rating and said he would remain a buyer of the stock ahead of the company’s earnings report, which is scheduled for Jan. 25.

“Q4 deliveries missed consensus but beat our estimates,” he said in a Tuesday note. “Importantly, production increased ~20% q/q which we expect to continue into 2023 as gigafactories in Berlin and Austin continue to ramp.”

Analysts at Goldman Sachs said they consider the delivery report to be an “incremental negative,” and view Tesla as a company that is “well positioned for long-term growth.” Goldman reiterated its buy rating on the stock in a Monday note and said that making vehicles more affordable in a challenging macroeconomic environment will be a “key driver of growth.”

“We believe key debates from here will be on whether vehicle deliveries can reaccelerate, margins and Tesla’s brand,” the analysts said.

Shares of Tesla suffered an extreme yearlong sell-off in 2022, prompting CEO Musk to tell employees in late December not to be “too bothered by stock market craziness.”

Musk has blamed Tesla’s declining share price in part on rising interest rates. But critics point to his rocky $44 billion Twitter takeover as a bigger culprit for the slide.

Morgan Stanley analysts said they think the company’s share price weakness is a “window of opportunity to buy.”

“Between a worsening macro backdrop, record high unaffordability, and increasing competition, there are hurdles for all auto companies to overcome in the year ahead,” they said in a note Tuesday. “However, within this backdrop we believe TSLA has the potential to widen its lead in the EV race, as it leverages its cost and scale advantages to further itself from the competition.”

CNBC’s Lora Kolodny and Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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Tesla makes China boss Tom Zhu its highest-profile executive after Elon Musk

Tom Zhu Xiaotong, Tesla’s current executive in charge of China, speaks as a new Tesla experience store opens on Aug. 18, 2015 in Hangzhou, China.

Visual China Group | Getty Images

Tesla’s China chief Tom Zhu has been promoted to take direct oversight of the electric carmaker’s U.S. assembly plants as well as sales operations in North America and Europe, according to an internal posting of reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

The Tesla posting showed that Zhu’s title of vice president for Greater China had not changed and that he also retained his responsibilities as Tesla’s most senior executive for sales in the rest of Asia as of Tuesday.

The move makes Zhu the highest-profile executive at Tesla after Chief Executive Elon Musk, with direct oversight for deliveries in all of its major markets and operations of its key production hubs.

The reporting lines for Zhu would keep Tesla’s vehicle design and development — both areas where Musk has been heavily involved — separate while creating an apparent deputy to Musk on the more near-term challenges of managing global sales and output.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Reuters reviewed the organizational chart that had been posted internally by Tesla and confirmed the change with two people who had seen it. They asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Elon Musk needs to go back to Tesla and have others run Twitter, says Jim Cramer

Zhu and a team of his reports were brought in by Tesla late last year to troubleshoot production issues in the United States, driving an expectation among his colleagues then that he was being groomed for a bigger role.

Zhu’s appointment to a global role comes at a time when Musk has been distracted by his acquisition of Twitter and Tesla analysts and investors have urged action that would deepen the senior executive bench and allow him to focus on Tesla.

Under Zhu, Tesla’s Shanghai plant rebounded strongly from Covid lockdowns in China.

Tesla said on Monday that it had delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, short of Wall Street estimates, according to data compiled by Refinitiv.

The company had delivered 308,600 vehicles in the same period a year earlier.

The Tesla managers reporting to Zhu include: Jason Shawhan, director of manufacturing at the Gigafactory in Texas; Hrushikesh Sagar, senior director of manufacturing at Tesla’s Fremont factory; Joe Ward, vice president in charge of Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Troy Jones, vice president of North America sales and service, according to the Tesla notice on reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

Tesla country managers in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand continued to report to Zhu, the notice showed.

Zhu does not have a direct report at Tesla’s still-ramping Berlin plant, but a person with knowledge of the matter said responsibility for that operation would come with the reporting line for Amsterdam-based Ward. Ward could not be immediately reached for comment.

Zhu, who was born in China but now holds a New Zealand passport, joined Tesla in 2014. Before that he was a project manager at a company established by his MBA classmates at Duke University, advising Chinese contractors working on infrastructure projects in Africa.

During Shanghai’s two-month Covid lockdown, Zhu was among the first batch of employees sleeping in the factory as they sought to keep it running, people who work with him have said.

Zhu, a no-fuss manager who sports a buzz cut, favors Tesla-branded fleece jackets and has lived in a government-subsidized apartment that is a 10-minute drive from the Shanghai Gigafactory. It was not immediately clear whether he would move after his promotion.

He takes charge of Tesla’s main production hubs at a time when the company is readying the launch of Cybertruck and a revamped version of its Model 3 sedan. Tesla has also said it is developing a cheaper electric vehicle but has not provided details on that plan.

When Tesla posted a picture on Twitter last month to celebrate its Austin, Texas, plant hitting a production milestone for its Model Y, Zhu was among hundreds of workers smiling on the factory floor.

Why China is beating the U.S. in electric vehicles

Allan Wang, who was promoted to vice president in charge of sales in China in July, was listed as the legal representative for the operation in registration papers filed with Chinese regulators in a change by the company last month.

Tesla board member James Murdoch said in November the company had recently identified a potential successor to Musk without naming the person. Murdoch did not respond to a request for comment.

Electrek previously reported that Zhu would take responsibility for U.S. sales, delivery and service.

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