IBM Rumored to Be Developing Bitcoin Alternative

IBM may be looking to further its exploration of bitcoin and blockchain technologies in a way that goes beyond its previously revealed proof of concept ADEPT.

Reuters reports the US-based tech giant is seeking to create a digital cash and payment system for traditional currencies that uses blockchain technologies.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, IBM said the objective is to make traditional payments instantaneous while cutting out traditional intermediaries such as banks and clearing parties.

The article explained:

”The transactions would be in an open ledger of a specific country’s currency such as the dollar or euro, said the source, who declined to be identified because of a lack of authorization to discuss the project in public.”

The source reportedly went on to call the project a “bitcoin but without the bitcoin”, adding that it is still in its early stages. Further, he spoke positively about the possibilities the project aims to achieve, suggesting the blockchain can help make payments more convenient and easier to use.

“We are at a tipping point right now,” the source continued. “It’s making a lot more sense for some type of digital cash in the system, that not only saves our government money, but also is a lot more convenient and secure for individuals to use.”

Representatives from IBM did immediately not respond to requests for comment.

 (@pete_rizzo_)

 

IBM’s Richard Gendal Brown: Bitcoin is Opening Minds

 (@southtopia) | Published on January 31, 2015 at 14:13 GMT

Richard G BrownOne of bitcoin’s most important historic legacies may be the way it merges disparate fields of study to find unexpected solutions to old problems, according to one of the space’s key thinkers.

CoinDesk spoke to IBM UK’s executive architect for innovation in banking and financial markets, Richard Gendal Brown, to get his overview of what this disruptive new technology might hold in store for the future.

A far better-educated class of graduates is now emerging from universities thanks to bitcoin’s existence, Brown said, adding:

“This is a field where you truly have to be interdisciplinary to make progress.”

People with academic backgrounds like engineering and computer science, who previously would have had little exposure to finance or economics, are now endowed with much greater awareness of how financial systems work, and what the possibilities and problems are.

People looking at old problems in a new way, he said, “can’t help but lead to exciting possibilities in the future”.

There will be products and services that may not have been imagined yet, but which will come into existence thanks to these new perspectives.

Thinking ahead

Brown’s position gives him the enviable opportunity to spend time examining blockchain technology and extrapolating on where it might lead, both for IBM’s own clients and the rest of us.

Or as Brown himself puts it: “Where are things going, and what does that mean for what we should do together today?”

His blog has been cited as one of cryptocurrency philosophy’s regular must-reads. More recently, he has been a leading voice in predicting that distributed ledger technology would extend far beyond bitcoin’s payment mechanisms and into the wider fields of contract law, smart property, aspects of decentralized trust and solving the question of identity.

The importance of miners

One particular stand-out comment in late 2014 was Brown’s regular assertion that currency was perhaps the “least interesting thing about bitcoin” and its underlying technology.

It would be wrong, however, to assume this implies bitcoin as a currency is not an interesting application. Rather, Brown’s level of interest is such that the world-changing implications of distributed ledger and consensus technologies are simply more appealing to think about.

He also not intend to diminish the importance of the currency use-case, and bitcoin’s value, in securing the network by providing miners with something to pay for expensive equipment and electricity bills.

He said:

“What I’ve come to stress more clearly over the last couple of months is: the security of the architecture underpinning decentralized systems like bitcoin does come from the incentivization of the miners.”

Then there is the fact that other distributed applications often require some form of payment mechanism to function, so it’s handy to have one already built in.

Bifurcation of focus

The placing of importance on either the currency/payments application or distributed ledger technology is creating the current bifurcation of development, which we now see in startups which focus on bringing bitcoin into the mainstream consumer space on one side, and more theoretical ‘crypto 2.0′ projects on the other.

In a personal capacity, Brown recently joined the advisory board of one such project, decentralized asset registry Hyperledger, joining fellow crypto-commentator Tim Swanson.

Core currency use cases, to the extent they happen, will be driven by consumer applications, Brown said. “But I don’t see the chain of logic that concludes with major banks doing something with the currency itself.”

A limited factor in the payments field is that consumers in ‘developed’ economies aren’t crying out for better solutions right now. Current systems available, despite their fees and security flaws, are still adequate for most people.

Major firms are more likely to find something compelling in distributed ledger technology, and would likely drive development in that space, he said.

Identity and reputation layer

Managing online identities and reputations is one important aspect of the technology in various crypto 2.0 applications – both in interfacing with existing know your customer/anti-money laundering systems and in developing new types of apps.

“I think certain use cases can’t develop until there is some notion of identity,” Brown said.

Using a colored coin-type platform as an example, he gives the example of a corporation that wishes to issue a blockchain-based bond. There are several identity issues that need to be resolved:

“Firstly, how does anybody else in the system know that that issuer is who they say they are? If I’m going to pay good money for a colored coin that represents $100m of a corporate bond issue, I’d better be completely sure that it really was issued by that company or someone acting on its behalf.”

It needs to be more sophisticated than simply signing the issuing document with the company’s SSL key, given that the person authorized to issue bonds is probably a different individual to the one who controls the key.

“You can also flip that, though – you’ve then got the obligation on the issuer to know who its lenders are. If I’m a US corporation and I have an obligation to pay a coupon once a quarter, or whatever, I will be in big trouble if I pay that coupon to a sanctioned entity.”

It would be necessary to know who is holding the colored coins on the date of payment and, to avoid people gaming the system, the corporation would need to know who is holding the coin in the intervening periods as well, to make sure it hasn’t just been moved to a sanctioned entity and then back again.

Opportunity for entrepreneurs

There is a real opportunity for entrepreneurs to innovate in this space, Brown continued. One point where crypto 2.0 projects could add some value is finding out how to encode and describe the rules that would govern something like the aforementioned bond issuance.

“There’s a whole collection of law and thinking that needs to come together then to make this space work, and it’s one of the reasons I find this space intellectually stimulating, because there are new problems to solve.”

In considering crypto 2.0 applications, Brown also writes of concepts like the “continuum of decentralization” and the “unbundling of trust”, where the choice between centralized and decentralized is not black and white, and various centralized or trusted entities (like banks’ KYC requirements, or identities of bond issuers) can live at certain points on bitcoin’s distributed backbone.

The sidechains concept, while only one potential solution of many, is one way that centralized entities could integrate with bitcoin technology, making it unnecessary to invent a new cryptocurrency with its own blockchain for every new application.

“It now gives us a way to bridge between the attempt at decentralization that bitcoin gives you, and the need sometimes to impose more controls because the business model demands it, or the law demands it. Previously it was one or the other.”

Opening minds

All this brings us back to Brown’s unifying message: that many of these problems might not even be considered were it not for the new merging of computer science disciplines with the needs of the financial and legal worlds.

“People tend of have a more open mind and are willing to think about things without the usual constraints of their day jobs.”

Whether it’s a better global payments system or something fundamentally changing organizational structures, the real ‘killer app’ for the burgeoning technological field may still be some way off.

It something not even considered yet, Brown said, or “an unexpected problem, to be solved with all manner of technologies … It’s an entry point for interesting conversation, if not necessarily the solution.”

Door image via Shutterstock

Oil prices >>> causing Canadian budget issues

WTI crude oil price

The federal government and oil-producing provinces — mainly Alberta, as well as Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador — receive income from oil royalties and corporate taxes. The falling price of oil is expected to slash that revenue by billions of dollars. And because oil is less lucrative, energy producers will likely invest less. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer estimates a decrease of $23 billion in spending in 2015. But cheaper oil benefits other provinces. It lowers the cost of gasoline and boosts energy-hungry industries such as manufacturing.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Bank of Canada overnight rate

Worried by oil’s plunge, Canada’s central bank decided to reduce its key interest rate by a quarter point on Jan. 21, 2015. ”This decision is in response to the recent sharp drop in oil prices, which will be negative for growth and underlying inflation in Canada,” the Bank of Canada said in a press release. The surprise decision was the first time the interest rate had changed since September 2010.

By cutting the interest rate, the central bank aims to make it less expensive for businesses and consumers to borrow money. A rate cut usually lowers interest rates on loans based on the prime rate, such as variable-rate mortgages and lines of credit.
Source: Bank of Canada

Canadian dollar in U.S. dollar

Immediately after the Bank of Canada’s rate cut, the Canadian dollar dropped in value compared to the U.S. dollar.

A lower interest rate makes it less appealing to hold Canadian dollars, as they will earn less interest relative to other currencies. Investors were also concerned because the central bank predicted Canada’s economy would grow at a slower rate in 2015.
A lower loonie is good news for Canadian exporters, because their products cost less to foreign customers.
But on the flip side of the coin, a cheaper Canadian dollar makes cross-border shopping and traveling in the U.S. more expensive.

Canadian Household debt to disposable income ratio

One final repercussion: the amount of household debt owed by Canadians continues to climb. On average, Canadians owe about $1.63 for every dollar of disposable income they earn.

In December, the governor of the Bank of Canada warned this debt poses a serious risk to the country’sfinancial stability. Economists are divided on whether the lower interest rate will make it easier to pay off this debt or will only encourage more borrowing.
Source: Statistics Canada

Bank-of-Canada-s

 The Bank of Canada, 234 Wellington Street

Oil prices likely to rebound in second half of 2015: poll

Oil prices likely to rebound in second half of 2015: poll

By Koustav Samanta and Vijaykumar Vedala | Reuters 

oil pump jacks behind a natural gas flare

The Canadian Press – In this Dec. 17, 2014 photo, workers tend to oil pump jacks behind a natural gas flare near Watford City, N.D. Natural gas, the nation’s most prevalent heating fuel, is getting cheaper just as winter is arriving because of mild temperatures and plentiful supplies. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) 

By Koustav Samanta and Vijaykumar Vedala

(Reuters) – Crude oil prices are likely to bottom out in the first half of 2015, until a possible slowdown in U.S. shale production counters a supply glut exacerbated by OPEC’s decision not to cut output, a Reuters monthly survey showed.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ agreement last month to stand pat on output meant the onus for any supply cutbacks was now on non-OPEC producers, primarily led by U.S. shale oil, analysts said.

“Oil prices will be lower, making shale oil production less attractive for investments, which are necessary to keep shale oil production growing,” Commerzbank’s Carsten Fritsch said.

Oil is seen recovering in the second half as non-OPEC production responds to lower prices, while demand picks up in the course of the year, the poll showed.

The survey of 30 economists and analysts projected Brent to average $74.00 a barrel next year and $80.30 in 2016.

The forecast for 2015 is $8.50 below the average projection in the previous Reuters poll. The November poll number was down $11.20 from October, marking the biggest downgrade in average forecasts since the 2008 economic downturn.

Brent this month hit five-year lows below $60 a barrel, down almost half from peaks reached in June. Brent has averaged $100.57 so far this year.

Brent was up 74 cents at $62.12 on Monday. U.S. crude was up 66 cents at $57.79 a barrel.

“In terms of the floor price, we think $60 per barrel will be the level at which fast-rising U.S. shale oil producers will feel the pinch,” ANZ analyst Natalie Rampono said.

“Supply cuts above this level will be limited to other smaller, high-cost U.S. and Canadian unconventional oil producers. Although we think it will take six to 12 months for these supply cuts to become apparent,” she added.

Some analysts, however, were skeptical whether OPEC’s stand would serve as a deterrent to U.S. shale oil producers.

“The lag in oil production response from existing wells from the U.S. suggests that only the marginal oil projects will be discouraged at this stage,” Vyanne Lai of National Australia Bank said.

The poll forecast U.S. light crude would average $68.70 a barrel next year, and $74.90 in 2016. U.S. crude has averaged $93.99 so far in 2014.

“Some of the highly leveraged U.S. shale oil producers will face serious trouble. In the long term, OPEC strategy should pay off for OPEC as this strategy should lead to higher oil prices from 2016/17 on,” Hannes Loacker of Raiffeisen Bank said.

Raiffeisen is among the most bullish forecasters, projecting Brent to average $80 a barrel in 2015, and is one of 11 institutions that had participated in the previous poll and retained their outlook since then.

Of the 14 banks polled that have cut their forecasts since the previous month’s survey, Morgan Stanley slashed its projection by $28 to an average 2015 Brent price of $70.

ANZ, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JBC, LBBW and Deutsche Bank also lowered their North Sea crude forecast for next year by more than $15 per barrel.

ABN AMRO had the highest Brent forecast at $85 for 2015, while Nomisma Energia had the lowest at $59 a barrel.

Brent’s premium to U.S. crude will narrow to $5.30 a barrel in 2015 from $6.68 so far this year and $10.58 in 2013, the poll said.

(Reporting by Koustav Samanta and Vijaykumar Vedala in Bengaluru; Editing by Dale Hudson)r-OIL-SANDS-EU-CANADA-large570Syncrude Oil Operations in Alberta Tar Sands

Chinese team lands in Liberia to fight Ebola

ebolafighter

ebolafighter

About 160 Chinese health workers have arrived in Liberia, where they are due to staff a new $41m Ebola clinic that, unlike most other foreign interventions, is being built and fully run by Chinese personnel.China, Africa’s biggest trade partner, had come under fire for the level of its response to the Ebola crisis. But it said this week it would send 1,000 personnel to help fight an outbreak that has killed over 5,000 people in West Africa.”Up to now in Liberia, China is the only country which provides not only the construction of an ETU (Ebola treatment unit), but also the running and operation and the staffing of an ETU,” Zhang Yue, the Chinese ambassador to Liberia, told the Reuters news agency.

Yue said the new team in Liberia included a mix of doctors, nurses, technicians and engineers.

“They experienced SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). They are very knowledgeable in this area,” he said, referring to the contagious illness that was first identified in China in 2002 and killed several hundred people across the world.

Cuban contribution

On arrival, the Chinese health workers had their temperature taken and were made to wash their hands, a ritual adopted across the region as part of efforts to stem the disease.

Yue said the establishment of the clinic in Liberia brought China’s contribution to the anti-Ebola effort in the country to $122m.

Before China’s pledge to send 1,000 personnel, Cuba was the largest contributor of medical contingents to the crisis.

Both nations will see their teams work closely alongside the United States, which is providing much of the infrastructure of the international response.

Source:Reuters

 

降低手续费将是Apple Pay成功的关键?

对苹果(Apple)新推出的Apple Pay移动支付功能,市场研究机构Gartner副总裁Avivah Litan分享了对此新功能及市场机制之看法;他表示,目前有关Apple Pay资安防护功能的细节虽然尚不清楚,不过看来似乎会与Visa、MasterCard等信用卡知名品牌,还有发行这些信用卡的各大银行合作,推出一套金融服务业者都赞同且认可的支付卡凭证化(tokenization)系统。

这表示消费者不必在自己的电子货币包中储存卡片数据,而是以信用卡设定Apple Pay系统(可与iTunes帐户使用相同信用卡,也可以设定他张卡片)。当消费者准备付款时,金融服务商会发送一组只能使用单次的认证载具(token)号码以启动付费流程。认证载具必须要有使用规范,例如认证载具的有效期限及范围,还有付费金额上限等等。

Litan表示,认证载具号码并非信用卡号,商家如果不必经手、储存或传输信用卡号,在资安方面将带来许多好处,例如:1.商家的信用卡产业合规(PCI compliance)范围可大幅缩小;2. 商家可避免卡片数据外泄,而且认证载具号码不能二次使用,就不会有人想去窃取这些数据,让系统更为安全。(电子工程专辑)

而Litan深信,商家的接受度将是带动新型态付费系统普及的主要推手,甚至比消费者的接受度还重要,Apple Pay若要成功,就必须为商家所接受。不过Apple Pay是否具备足够的资安功能以吸引商家采用?他的分析是:

˙目前接受信用卡付款的3,000多万商家可能大多还无法认同。除非所有消费者都使用Apple Pay,商家还是必须花钱取得信用卡产业合规所要求的复杂资安功能。

˙商家已经花钱升级EMV终端机(芯片卡用),还必须在2015年10月前做好升级与责任转移(liability shift)相关准备,否则无法处理EMV芯片卡付款,遇诈骗时还得自行负担损失。EMV终端机经授权后具备近场通讯(NFC)手机付费功能,商家也必须支持感应NFC的EMV刷卡功能。但苹果至今尚未言明是否支持EMV标准。(但未来可能提供支持)。

˙Gartner访谈的许多大型商家都在升级POS系统,加强卡片数据的点对点加密(P2PE)管理,这是因为他们听过太多数据外泄事件,不想成为下一家受害的零售商。有了点对点加密功能,实体店面就能提供卡片数据最快速、最严密的保护,因此虽然信用卡业者尚未针对这套技术达成标准化共识,市场仍对它相当有兴趣。

(电子工程专辑)

Litan指出,芯片(EMV)信用卡至少还要5到7年才会在美国普及,但为了保护自身利益和卡片数据,商家是没办法等这么久的。商家若采用点对点加密技术马上就能看到效果,不必等发卡机构与消费者开始使用芯片卡。那么,苹果要怎么做才能鼓励商家接受Apple Pay?他的看法是:

˙应仿效Square等支付服务商,向商家收取较低的手续费。为了降低iTunes交易成本,苹果已在支付整合服务(payment aggregation)方面累积许多经验与技术。如果把这套支付整合技术用在特约商店,只要Visa和MasterCard不反对,苹果绝对能提供比现行支付服务商及银行更低的手续费率。

˙在Apple Pay电子货币包中内建带动营收与用户忠诚度的功能,以刺激商家销售量。苹果也有能力做到这点,但就提升商家接受度而言,这一点的重要仍不及降低手续费。

Litan归纳表示,Apple Pay的推出相当令人振奋,甚至有可能就此改变支付市场版图,至少在美国是如此,因为当地商家三天两头就爆发资料外泄事件,资安防护问题与花费高到令人咋舌。苹果的确可以利用这股资安热潮,提供商家与消费者更安全的付费方式。但这毕竟只是广大顾客群的一小部分,其他人仍然需要保护。

他的个人看法是,降低手续费将是Apple Pay成功的关键所在。Google可能在资安保护功能上仿效苹果,接着还必须邀集合作手机制造商将手机中NFC芯片链接Google Wallet。这对属于封闭式系统的苹果来说更加容易,因为手机与手机所采用的软件都是自家制造。

不过Litan也认为,还是要等到Google加入战局,Android手机也能提供更安全的支付机制,NFC行动支付才能真正普及。而可期待的是,将因此有可能逐渐消弭支付卡数据外泄事件,至少让宵小将焦点转移到其他目标上。

PayPal’s Braintree Embraces Bitcoin, One-Touch Payments

Nearly a year after PayPal acquired it in an all-cash $800 million deal, online and mobile payments platform Braintree is unveiling one-touch payments and is integrating Bitcoin.

Bill Ready, who led the company through its sale, says that mobile conversion rates are still far off from where they are on the desktop web. That’s partially because it’s a lot more tedious to enter or re-enter credit card information on mobile devices. Ready says that more than half of e-commerce shopping experiences happen on mobile devices, but only 10 to 15 percent of purchases occur on smartphones.

“The reason for that gap is that there’s a two-thirds to 75 percent fall off in conversion,” Ready said. “People just bail out.”

But after months of tests, Braintree is unveiling a way for people to pay across different apps with a single touch, which eliminates the need for usernames and passwords. Early launch partners include Jane.com, ParkWhiz, StubHub and Type Tees by Threadless.

“We’re able to get to a better conversion rate on mobile than on desktop,” he said. “You should be able to get a strong amount of ecommerce sessions on phones and buys.”

On top of that, they’re partnering with Y Combinator and Andreessen Horowitz-backed Coinbase to enable Bitcoin-based payments.

“This is PayPal making a move to embrace Bitcoin,” Ready said, pointing out that Braintree is the go-to developer platform for PayPal.

That ability will launch in the coming months. Developers who have integrated Braintree’s software development kit will also be able to add Bitcoin to their payment methods. It’s another win for the San Francisco-based Bitcoin wallet and merchant payments processing platform, which recently secured deals with Wikipedia and Overstock. Braintree supports very large partners like Uber, Airbnb and Dropbox and Ready says it’s still growing at 25 percent quarter-over-quarter even after handling $14 billion in volume around the time that eBay acquired it.

“We had a lot of developers tell us they’d love to add Bitcoin,” said Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong. “But Braintree would handle all of their payments and they didn’t want to add another SDK. They would say that if Braintree added it, they would add it.”

If Braintree-supported merchants choose to enable Bitcoin payments, they’ll need a Coinbase wallet. The integration will support instant exchanges, meaning that the merchant doesn’t have to handle Bitcoin directly and can get an immediate conversion rate between a fiat currency and Bitcoin.

http://www.braintreepayments.com

https://bitcoin.org

http://www.coinbase.com

Ali-IPO: Meet the lacrosse player behind the Internet’s latest juggernaut

Joseph Tsai, Alibaba’s vice chairman and a Canadian citizen, is the guy who stays up until 4:30 a.m. to make sure things get done.

tai

Joseph Tsai, vice chairman of Alibaba Group

HONG KONG — At 4:30 a.m. on a May morning here, Joseph Tsai gathered with three other executives of Alibaba Group Holding. With the U.S. stock market just closed, it was time to submit the Chinese e-commerce giant’s prospectus for an initial public offering — likely to be the largest ever in the U.S.

As bottles of champagne awaited, each executive typed a word of the company name on a computer. All four then hit the send button, submitting the 340-page document that officially began the IPO process that will culminate the week of Sept. 8.

While Chairman Jack Ma is the visionary founder of Alibaba, Tsai, the vice chairman and a Canadian citizen, is the guy who stays up until 4:30 a.m. to execute that vision. Yale-educated and a former lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, Tsai’s job now is to convince investors to buy the stock of a Chinese company that analysts say is worth almost $200 billion (U.S.), making it the most valuable Internet firm after Google.

“Alibaba wouldn’t be where it is today without Joe Tsai,” said Porter Erisman, who worked in marketing and communications at Alibaba in the early days and just released a documentary on the company’s beginnings. “Joe is the international lens for the whole group.”

Born in Taiwan, the 50-year-old Tsai came to the U.S. in 1977 to attend the Lawrenceville School, an elite boarding school in New Jersey, speaking hardly any English. By the time he graduated, he was conversing with no accent, and playing lacrosse.

He went on to play the sport at Yale University, where he stood in stark contrast to other players from middle-class backgrounds, said Jeff Gordon, a teammate from Long Island, New York. That didn’t stop Tsai from assimilating easily.

“We all immediately bonded,” said Gordon, who’s now an executive at Dish Network Corp. in Denver. “I knew what hard work he put in on the lacrosse field on a daily basis. Joe always did what he thought was right, and he was a steadying presence for all of us.”

Tsai defied conventional jock protocol by wearing a pink triangle on his chest in support of gay rights. When members of the team teased him, he replied that it was just the right thing to do.

Tsai helped transform Alibaba into a global powerhouse, leading negotiations for most of the early funding rounds, including $20 million from SoftBank Corp., and negotiating dozens of acquisitions, averaging two a month just this year. He also courted investors for Alibaba.com’s $1.69 billion (U.S.) IPO in Hong Kong in 2007.

Tsai also arranged the more controversial aspects of Alibaba Group’s upcoming IPO. He championed a partnership governance model that gives 27 individuals outsized control in nominating a majority of the board. And he formulated the company’s version of an exotic corporate structure that Chinese companies use to bypass restrictions on foreign ownership.

Tsai will be well rewarded if the IPO is successful. His stake of 3.6 per cent could be worth as much as $7.1 billion (U.S.), based on analyst estimates of the company’s value.

As spokesman for Alibaba, Tsai and Ma declined to comment for this piece. The story is based on conversations with people who have direct knowledge of the events who asked not to be named discussing personal matters.

Born into a family of prominent lawyers, Tsai graduated from Yale Law School in 1990 and then worked as a tax attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York. After three years, he switched to private equity, seeking a role that allowed him to make decisions, instead of advising on them. He worked for a small, buyout firm in New York and then moved to Hong Kong for Stockholm-based Investor AB.

It was in this role that he first met Ma in 1999 in Hangzhou, China after being introduced by a friend. Tsai was impressed with Ma’s idea to create Alibaba.com, an international import and export marketplace, as well as his charismatic personality.

Later that year, Tsai made a second trip to the Chinese city, bringing his wife, Clara, pregnant with their first of three children, to convince her it was the right move. The visit included a boat ride with Jack Ma in Hangzhou’s famous West Lake, where the two discussed future plans for Alibaba.

Tsai quit his $700,000-a-year job at Investor AB and offered to work for nothing for Alibaba. Ma asked that each of Alibaba’s 18 co-founders — of which Tsai is the only Western- educated member — accept a salary of $600 (U.S.) a year.

Tsai served as chief financial officer of Alibaba for more than a decade, before becoming Alibaba’s vice chairman in 2013, overseeing the company’s development. He led the deal to repurchase some of Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba through transactions valued at $7.6 billion (U.S.) in 2012.

Eric Jackson was an activist investor in 2007 targeting Yahoo, which at the time had a 40 per cent stake in Alibaba. Following the campaign, he scheduled a meeting in December 2010 with Tsai in Hong Kong that lasted 90 minutes.

“It was a huge eye-opener for me,” said Jackson, founder of hedge fund Ironfire Capital. “He was so impressive to me that I walked out of my meeting and said we have to go back and buy Yahoo shares because no one in America understands that they have a 40 per cent stake in what’s going to be an Internet juggernaut.”

Alibaba hasn’t always been loved by its shareholders. In 2011, the company drew complaints from Yahoo and Softbank after transferring ownership of Alipay, its online payment unit, to a company controlled by Ma — a move Yahoo said it didn’t learn of until months later.

Tsai led Alibaba’s talks with Yahoo and Softbank on a compensation deal that followed.

If Alibaba were a movie, Ma would be the star actor and director, and Tsai would be the executive producer. While Ma comes up with many of the ideas and is involved in the business, Tsai is known as the guy who gets stuff done. Most who know Tsai describe him as low-key, even-keeled and humble.

“The fact that it’s a successful partnership is probably because they are such different people,” said Jim Rogers, chairman of Singapore-based Rogers Holdings, an investment firm. “As a team they’ve done a brilliant job.”

While Ma is based in Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, Tsai conducts business from Hong Kong. He travels to Hangzhou every three weeks and the two speak by phone almost every day.

One of Tsai’s biggest challenges will be to allay investor concerns about the complicated legal structure Alibaba is required to use. China prohibits foreign investors from buying shares in certain industries, including the Internet. To get around this, companies in the past have used variable interest entity, or VIEs, where foreigners are connected to the publicly- held parent through contracts rather than direct ownership. The risk is that Chinese courts don’t uphold the validity of the VIE contracts.

While earlier Chinese companies went public with as much as 99 per cent of their revenue tied to the VIE, Tsai arranged Alibaba’s so that only about 12 per cent of its revenue is tied to the structure.

Tsai also was on the front line negotiating to list Alibaba’s shares in Hong Kong. Alibaba will be governed by a partnership with exclusive right to nominate a majority of its board of directors, a structure that was eventually rejected by Hong Kong’s Securities & Futures Commission.

The company’s insistence on maintaining the governance structure led to Alibaba abandoning Hong Kong for the U.S. as listing venue.

Alibaba struck more than $4.6 billion worth of acquisitions this year, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Tsai oversees the company’s M&A team, and led many of the deal discussions, expanding Alibaba’s business into new territories from online mapping to department stores and TV content.

One of the acquisitions stumbled this month when a film producer it bought in June said it uncovered possible accounting flaws. A new management team installed by Alibaba at the unit, Alibaba Pictures, uncovered possible “non-compliant treatment” of financial information for periods before its acquisition. This is unlikely to delay the share sale, a person familiar with the matter has said.

Tsai was also a key person in deciding which investment banks to hire for the lucrative IPO. Six banks are currently tapped to lead Alibaba’s share sale: Credit Suisse Group, Deutsche Bank Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Citigroup.

Tsai juggled his IPO responsibilities while watching the World Lacrosse Championship in Denver in mid-July, where the Hong Kong and Chinese teams that he helped build were playing. Gordon, his former Yale teammate who stays in touch with Tsai through his Facebook account, watched the games with him.

“He hasn’t changed one iota,” Gordon said. “Did I expect him to be a very significant contributor to the world’s economy in some way, shape or form? Of course. It’s how hard he worked, how smart he was, his ability to see differences in others and become their brother.”

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Alibaba.com Ltd.’s headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. Chinese Internet users have grown to 632 million and could exceed 850 million by 2015, according to government data.

祭拜二战远征军英灵 马英九眼眶泛红 严思祺

马英九总统3日到在台北圆山忠烈祠主持秋祭典礼,首度祭拜远征军阵亡将士灵位。

马英九总统在秋祭典礼首度祭拜二战远征军阵亡将士灵位, 中华民国远征军历史终获应有的历史定位。

周三(9月3日)是九三军人节,也是对日抗战胜利69周年纪念日,马英九总统率副总统、五院院长、文武官员前往台北圆山忠烈祠,秋祭国军阵亡将士,首度祭拜在二战缅甸战区阵亡的远征军将士灵位。日前,台湾国防部迎回当年入缅作战解救英军的远征军阵亡将士灵位,入祀忠烈祠。

1942年至1944年间,中华民国远征军两次进入缅甸与盟军共同作战,重创日军,名扬国际。其中仁安羌一役,新38师师长孙立人及113团团长刘放吾以少打多,重创数倍优势的日军,成功营救受困的英军7000多人及英美传教士、新闻记者等500多人,远征军以寡击众的辉煌战果,史称“仁安羌大捷”。

孙立人将军之子孙天平、刘放吾将军之子刘伟民,分别从中国大陆、美国返台,参加秋祭典礼。

1942年至1944年间,孙立人将军率领的中华民国远征军两次进入缅甸与盟军共同作战,重创日军,名扬国际。

当年深入滇缅战区、进行联军密支那作战的退役中将吴招有,今年高龄92岁,坐着轮椅与祭。抗日英雄吉星文之子吉民立、高志航之子高耀汉,以遗族代表身分与祭。

秋祭典礼中,播放了台湾国防部赴缅甸迎回远征军阵亡将士灵位的纪实影片,呼吁国人勿忘国军的这段历史。影片中说,远征军解救盟军,促成台湾、澎湖重回中华民国的怀抱。马英九总统全程观看影片,表情肃穆,眼眶泛红。

随后,马英九总统与当年参战将领、遗族代表等握手致意。马总统与吴招有握手致意时,吴招有呈递一份文件给马总统,两人并且短暂交谈。总统府表示,这封信函是吴招有私人对马总统表达的关心信。

由于孙立人当年返台后遭指控涉入兵变案,以致远征军历史长年遭到忽视。马英九总统不但平反孙立人案,并亲自向孙家表达感恩及歉疚。

如今,国防部从缅甸迎回远征军阵亡将士灵位入祀忠烈祠,并由三军统帅主持秋祭典礼向阵亡将士灵位致敬,二战远征军终于获得应有的历史评价。

马英九总统在观看迎回远征军阵亡将士灵位影片时,不禁拿出手帕拭泪。

最近,中国大陆也已开始正视国军在抗日战争中的贡献。中国大陆国务院日前公布首批80处国家级抗战纪念设施与遗址名录,其中涵盖了国民党抗战的面向。

另外,中国大陆民政部首批公布了300名抗日英烈和群体名单,其中国民革命军占三分之一,包括张自忠、佟麟阁、赵登禹、谢晋元、高志航等人。

对此,台湾媒体有不同解读。《旺报》认为,抗日英烈中,国民党绝非少数。报导中质疑,在抗日战争中领导“正面战场”的国民党将士、值得中国大陆人纪念的抗日英烈只占三分之一?这是否意谓国民党对抗战的贡献也只有三分之一?

《联合报》指出,按英烈名单看,国民革命军阵亡将领多集中在抗战早期,往后则是以中共的八路军阵亡居多,显示在抗日功绩上,北京仍刻意凸显自身重要性。

70岁澳男子创横渡英吉利海峡世界纪录

File photo taken on June 6, 2014 shows the English Channel in Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy

File photo taken on June 6, 2014 shows the English Channel in Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy

70岁的澳大利亚男子鲍多克创下了横渡英吉利海峡年龄最大的人的世界纪录。
星期四(21日),一名70岁的澳大利亚男子创下了横渡英吉利海峡年龄最大的人的世界纪录。
来自澳大利亚悉尼的西里尔·鲍多克完成了他的第二次从英国游到法国的旅程。
横渡英吉利海峡至少要游40公里,鲍多克用12小时45分钟完成了这一过程。
本周晚些时候,一名73岁的澳大利亚妇女将挑战鲍多克的世界纪录,也将横渡英吉利海峡。
鲍多克第一次横渡英吉利海峡是在1985年,在当时,他是第五位横渡英吉利海峡的澳大利亚人。
在接受澳大利亚广播公司的采访时鲍多克说,他的游泳教练冉福克活着时,曾希望成为世界上年纪最大的横渡英吉利海峡的人。
在冉福克患心脏病去世后,鲍多克就想自己来完成教练未能成真的梦想。
但是横渡英吉利海峡的年纪最大的人的世界纪录,在30年期间上升了10岁,所以鲍多克得等到自己70岁的时候才能实现这个愿望。
他现在的教练姆拉维奇为鲍多克设定了一个高强度的训练计划,每周至少游40公里。
鲍多克说,这样的高强度训练使他增强了体能,他有5个孙子,他能和孙子们一起做的许多事情,别的70岁老人不可能做。
虽然从英国到法国的英吉利海峡直行只有34公里,但是由于水流的关系,横渡英吉利海峡的人往往要游40公里以上。

70岁的澳大利亚男子鲍多克创下了横渡英吉利海峡年龄最大的人的世界纪录。