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Santander Issues $20 Million End-To-End Blockchain Bond on Ethereum

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Major Spanish bank Banco Santander has issued what it claims is the first end-to-end blockchain bond. 

In a Sept. 12 news release, the bank revealed that it had issued a $20 million bond directly onto the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain, where it will remain until the end of its one-year maturity.

Faster, cheaper and simpler than legacy systems

Santander has claimed that its use of blockchain technology for end-to-end bond issuance represents a first step towards a potential secondary market for mainstream security tokens.

As the news release outlines, Santander issued the $20 million bond — which carries a quarterly coupon of 1,98 — while one of the Santander Group’s units purchased the bond at market price. 

Santander Securities Services operated as tokenization agents and custodian of the cryptographic keys used for the issuance, with Santander Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) acting as a dealer. 

The transaction was conducted on the public Ethereum blockchain, with Santander securely tokenizing the bond in a permissioned manner. Both the cash used to complete the investment and the quarterly tokens were tokenized, with the bank noting that the

high degree of automation involved dramatically reduced the number of intermediaries required for the process.

Noting that the blockchain bond transaction was faster, more efficient and simpler than legacy systems, Santander CIB says it will now engage with its clients to move the initiative from the project stage through to development.

The blockchain bond initiative continues the work begun by Santander’s blockchain lab in 2016, with additional support from London-based fintech Nivaura — backed by Santander InnoVentures — and legal advice from global law firm Allen & Overy.

Global developments

Last month, Cointelegraph reported that Santander now plans to expand its implementation of Ripple’s xCurrent payments technology to a number of Latin American countries. The bank had first introduced the technology in Spain, Brazil, Poland and the United Kingdom back in April 2018. 

Also last month, the World Bank revealed it had raised an additional ~$33 million for its Kangaroo bond due August 2020 using blockchain technology. 

The World Bank likewise claimed a first in stating that the initiative represented the first bond that has been created, allocated, transferred and managed through its life cycle using distributed ledger technology.

Source: cointelegraph

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Chrysler Building Owner Sells Stake in Zurich Property for ERC-20 Tokens and Cash

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The new owner of the Chrysler Building is selling a property worth $135 million to a blockchain real-estate company, taking a fifth of the purchase price in tokenized securities.

New York-based RFR Holdings, which purchased the Chrysler Building in a joint agreement in March 2019, agreed to sell its majority stake in a commercial property in Zurich to BrickMark, a Switzerland-based real estate agency.

Announced Wednesday, BrickMark said roughly 20 percent of the purchase price will be paid in the firm’s BMT security token.

The deal gives BrickMark 80 percent of the building, with the option to purchase RFR’s remaining share until September. The purchase price has not been disclosed, but the value of the token share is believed to be in the tens of millions of euros.

According to BrickMark CEO Stephan Rind, it is the largest-ever real estate deal involving digital tokens. “There has never been a token-based real estate transaction of this magnitude. We are implementing what was once no more than a concept in the real estate industry,” he said.

The property is situated on the downtown street of Bahnhofstrasse (pictured), where rent per square meter is commonly between $13,000 to $15,000 a year, making it one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world. In 2014, Swatch Group purchased a nearby property for a reported $409 million.

One of the largest real estate purchases to involve cryptocurrency was the sale of a mansion just outside of San Francisco to a Chinse millionaire for 500 bitcoin, approximately $4 million at the April 2018 exchange rate.

BrickMark’s ethereum-based tokens are hybrid digital securities – tokenized perpetual bonds that will be backed by property in the BrickMark portfolio (for now, just this one building). BMT’s price represents the property’s net asset value performance and tokens will confer voting rights to holders.

Under the deal, RFR will lead redevelopment plans to expand the Zurich property’s rentable space sixfold, increasing annual revenue and, therefore, the value of the token.

Expansion ahead

With the Bahnhofstrasse deal completed, BrickMark plans to expand its portfolio. The firm plans to finalize a financing round worth €50 million ($55.7 million) and begin acquiring other high-value commercial properties in Europe and North America. More tokens will be issued in line

with new real estate acquisitions, enabling more investors to participate without diluting those held by existing holders.

Currently, there are only a handful of entities holding BMT tokens. Although restricted for the time being to qualified investors, there are plans under evaluation that would allow BrickMark to offer BMT tokens to retail investors through a European-regulated security token offering (STO).

According to its website, BrickMark has a €1 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of property assets. Issuing digital securities makes the investable real estate market, worth approximately $80 trillion, more accessible to institutions, the company believes.

“Only 3 percent [of investable real estate] is available for investors through public listed real estate companies or real estate-backed bonds or funds structures,” Rind said in a call Wednesday, highlighting that only a 5-percent fraction is ever traded on an annual basis. “We think digital securities and tokens are able to unlock these tremendous values and also give people, on a worldwide basis, access to properties that have [to now] been privileged.”

“Unlocking the value of the remaining USD 76 trillion is probably the biggest addressable market opportunity in the world,” Rind told CoinDesk.

Nascent industry

Other entities have also recognized the disruptive potential for blockchain in real estate. The tZERO security token platform and the Tezos Foundation signed an agreement to tokenize $643 million of U.K. real estate back in October 2019. Another real estate startup, known as AssetBlock, launched a commercial property trading platform on the Algorand blockchain in September.

That said, previous initiatives have failed to meet the high expectation. One high-profile venture between technology startup Fluidity and broker-dealer Propellr was quietly shelved last summer because “it didn’t have sufficient institutional appetite.”

Discussing the Bahnhofstrasse deal, Dr Alexander Koblischek, managing director of RFR Germany, said: “We gladly accepted the Brickmark tokens as part of the purchase price. We assume that digital financial instruments will also significantly gain in importance in the real estate sector in the future.”

“The current transaction may have an icebreaker function for the sector in terms of its volume and institutional character,” Koblischek said.

EDIT (Jan. 16, 16:01 UTC): A previous version of this article said the BMT token did not confer voting rights and that BrickMark managed a property portfolio worth $15bn. These statements have since been corrected.


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Former CFTC Officials Ramp Up Push for Digital Dollar With Accenture Partnership

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Former Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, former LabCFTC Director Daniel Gorfine and investor Charles Giancarlo want to take the dollar digital – and they’re not waiting for the Federal Reserve.

The three are forming the Digital Dollar Foundation, working with Accenture to design and push for a potential U.S. central bank digital currency (CBDC).

The new not-for-profit organization has a multi-part plan to first create potential designs and proposals; convene economists, lawyers, academics, technologists and others to evaluate these designs; and create a framework for testing the new system, all with the goal of making dollar transactions as seamless as a text message.

The idea isn’t new: The former CFTC officials called for using a blockchain platform to support a digital dollar since an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal last October. Essentially, a non-governmental group would run the project, with support from the Federal Reserve and other stakeholders. 

An analog reserve currency does not serve modern users, Giancarlo, the former CFTC chairman, said in a statement Thursday. 

“A digital dollar would help future-proof the greenback and allow individuals and global enterprises to make payments in dollars irrespective of space and time,” he said. 

The proposed digital dollar would be a tokenized form of the U.S. currency, which would work with other existing Fed liabilities but act as a digital settlement medium. 

The digital dollar would “meet the demands of the new digital world and a cheaper, faster and more inclusive global financial system,” Giancarlo said. 

Accenture will act as the chief architect and technology partner on the project. 

In a statement, Accenture global blockchain lead and managing partner David Treat said the firm would bring together some of the stakeholders to combine both real-world experience and new technological abilities to drive the project.

Giancarlo said Accenture has worked with a number of central banks, including the Bank of Canada, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the European Central Bank, to innovate around existing systems.

In particular, he highlighted the firm’s work with Sweden’s Riksbank on designing the ekrona.

Treat told CoinDesk via a spokesperson that Accenture has already invested heavily in the space, particularly with regard to CBDC and “the inherent value use cases. CBDCs can also support other digital ledger-based projects, he said.

“As an example, the ability to directly exchange a CBDC for a tokenized security will have profound effects on global capital markets,” he said.

Supporting the dollar

To begin with, the foundation will hold meetings, roundtable discussions and open forums to look into different approaches to creating a digital dollar.

“Core governmental interests,” including support for existing Fed projects, will also be considered, the press release noted.

This initial effort will culminate in a set of principles, which will then be compared to stakeholder needs and the practical requirements for a CBDC, as well as evaluated for U.S. legal compliance, the release said.

Fed buy-in is key: The digital dollar would have to be backed by the U.S. central bank, unlike most existing cryptocurrencies and dollar-pegged stablecoins.

Notably, the Digital Dollar Foundation’s proposals would look to preserve the existing financial system, not replace or otherwise supersede it, according to the press release.

As such, it is likely to take into account, if not outright coordinate with, the FedNow project, the Fed’s real-time payment system. While rumors that the central bank would develop its own digital payment rails have persisted for years, the entity only formally announced the effort last year.

To date, it

does not appear as though FedNow will utilize a blockchain, though the project is in an early stage.

Still, what is clear is Fed governors and Chairman Jerome Powell are aware of the technology, and are at least evaluating the potential use of a blockchain to support the system.

U.S. congressmen French Hill (R-Ark.) and Bill Foster (D-Ill.) have even weighed into the debate, asking Powell whether using a blockchain-based CBDC was feasible or worth the effort.

Powell has so far responded that while the Fed is looking into the matter, he doesn’t yet see if there will be any significant benefit to pursuing monetary policy with a CBDC.

Gorfine, who previously ran the CFTC’s financial technology initiative in LabCFTC, told CoinDesk via email that a number of issues must be worked out before a U.S. CBDC can be issued, including legal, economic, privacy, security and technology concerns.

“These are some of the issues we intend to explore and we will do so with a broad range of stakeholders through a phased approach that may include actual or proposed pilots,” he said. “Ultimately, a digital dollar would need to be issued by the Fed, and our goal is to advance a framework for potential, practical steps that could support such an effort.”

Global needs

Thursday’s announcement comes amid growing rumors that China may soon be ready to launch its own central bank digital currency. The full details and scope of China’s project are unknown, though it appears possible that the country could try to take on the U.S. dollar’s dominance of the global financial system.

It remains to be seen whether a digital renminbi could take on the dollar in dominating the global financial system. Jerry Brito, executive director at industry think tank Coin Center, argued in a blog post the renminbi’s fundamentals will not change just because it is placed on a blockchain, and therefore a Chinese CBDC poses no threat to the U.S. dollar.

Still, former senior U.S. government officials and academics have considered the possibility that nations like North Korea could use a digital renminbi to bypass sanctions while hostile actors target the aging infrastructure supporting remittances today, like the SWIFT Network.

Other nations are also looking to issue their own CBDCs. The Marshall Islands is perhaps one of the most advanced, announcing last year it would issue the Marshallese sovereign in two stages: first, a private pre-sale to gauge liquidity, followed by the public issuance sometime within the next two years.

Private groups are also looking to serve the declared need for a global, scalable means of transmission, most famously the Libra stablecoin project, which social media giant Facebook announced in June as an effort to create an international payment system specifically targeting un- or underbanked individuals.

The new digital dollar envisioned by Giancarlo and Gorfine would fulfill the same niche, but act more simply as just the 21st century dollar, however.

“It must … reduce costs, foster security, improve transparency and serve as an effective digital settlement medium nationally and internationally to make the dollar a better currency for all of its global users,” the press release said.

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JPMorgan Spinoff Launches its own Hybrid Blockchain for Smart Contracts

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Kadena is one of the JPMorgan spinoffs focusing on blockchain technology. The company unveiled its public chain earlier this week, and launched a wallet service to boot.

Kadena is a public chain primarily built for smart contracts.

KADENA IS A PUBLIC BLOCKCHAIN AFTER ALL 

These contracts will be interoperable between its public chain and private chain aspects.

It is evident that big banks are also betting big on blockchain infrastructure for a wide variety of use cases.

This chain aims to be scalable and offer proof-of-work alternatives to secure the network as a whole.

This new ecosystem also consists of a wallet known as Chainweaver.

That wallet is now integrated with the Cosmos Network, allowing for interoperability between

different distributed ledger systems.

When everything is said and done, all of the services should be fully up and running by late March 2020. 

It is rather interesting to see this chain being public, as that is not what most people expected.

Even so, it has its own smart contact language, known as Pact.

This will allow third parties to develop services and products on the ecosystem in the future.

The hybrid DLT model will process 750 transactions per second, albeit the exact numbers might be slightly different.

More competition in this space is never a bad thing, albeit it remains to be seen how well Kadena’s system works.

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