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Saudi Arabia Increases Pressure on Qatar: What You Need to Know

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In a potentially important move on Monday, the biggest oil producer in the world – fellow US ally Saudi Arabia- and several other countries including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, while halting all transportation with the country. They declared that the reason for the steps were Doha’s ties to terrorist groups and the risks that the country poses to the region. Rumors surfaced yesterday that the Saudi leadership sent a 24-hour ultimatum to Qatar through the Kuwaiti government, with unspecified demand. Although the rumors were later denied, fears of further sanctions and trade disruptions still weigh on global sentiment.

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What Triggered the Crisis?

Tensions have been mounting between Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Iran) since the Arab Spring, as the opposing powers scrambled for authority amid the turmoil, with both sides accusing the other of funding terrorists and destabilizing the region. The current escalation began shortly after the diplomatic visit of Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia, where he urged cracking down on extremists, and their political allies. The POTUS tweeted the following message after the move:

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

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On an interesting note, the Qatari Foreign Minister stated that the crisis was, at least, partly triggered by fake news planted on a government website allegedly by Russian hackers. He told CNN that:

Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation, because it was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI.”

Some analysts say that the fight for the natural gas market and the broader energy segment is behind the move, with Qatar being the biggest LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) seller of the world. With several LNG projects soon entering the market in the US, a potential disruption of the market might be the common interest for the biggest players.

The Effects on Financial Markets

Whatever is behind the Saudi’s move, it certainly put the price oil and natural gas in focus once again. Oil has been falling ever since the extension of the OPEC’s production cut two weeks ago, and it continued lower after an initial spike on Monday, as investors weighed the effects of the crisis on the fragile OPEC deal.

Crude Oil, 4-Hour Chart

Stock markets sold off globally on the news, while the main safe-haven assets like gold and the Japanese Yen jumped higher. A sustained embargo against the country could influence the price of the related commodities, while further escalation between the countries would certainly give a boost to gold, and other safe-haven assets, while putting pressure on stocks and risk-on currencies. Stay tuned for more updates!

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Energy

ICO Analysis: MyBit

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As we previously noted in our analysis of Suncontract, the demand for electricity is expanding exponentially. From electric smart cars to artificial intelligence, everything is going to need more electricity. MyBit notes in their whitepaper that Elon Musk, a man who knows a fair bit about electricity, says that there will be 20-30 million rooftops installing solar panels annually, globally. MyBit, like Suncontract, believes these people should be empowered to contribute their solar power to the grid. While Suncontract intends to build infrastructure in order to create a decentralized network of producers and consumers, MyBit is more focused on linking the nodes in such a network – and by that easing use, guaranteeing payments, and incentivizing innovation.

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Centralized financing systems have worked well for most of the history, but we are reaching a tipping point where they will no longer be able to scale with demand. Our proposed solution is to utilize Ethereum’s Blockchain and smart contract functionality to enable decentralized crowdfunding and revenue sharing for infrastructure that is already generating revenue. This enables the energy infrastructure to scale as needed to keep up with growing demand. It is not restrictive to location (from a financial infrastructure perspective), incentivizes investors with realtime revenue distributions, and enables decentralized energy solution providers to sell more units.

Mybit and the Future of Energy Consumption

Studies show that energy consumption is moving to countries not affiliated with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and such countries also warrant the most difficulty in satisfying demand. This creates an economic opportunity for renewables to flood into these markets as demand grows.

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The MyBit token will be used to buy and sell the renewable energy, and 1% of all transactions will be redistributed amongst the token holders, by percentage of stake. Thus, the profitability of the MyBit token is directly related to the success of the platform – the more systems added to the network, the more energy bought and sold by those systems, then the more profit each token will yield. These profits holding actual value is, of course, dependent on market exchange rates – thus, severe volatility in the Ethereum market could make it difficult to develop part-time businesses around the model, but passive users might profit handsomely with little extra effort.

Beyond Energy

The MyBit system is not only intended for decentralized energy, however.

Similar to the process outlined above for commoditizing decentralized energy, we plan to use our model to foundationally drive the evolution of AI infrastructure implementation.

It is unclear exactly what is meant by “foundationally drive the evolution,” but it would seem that at least computational resources could be made available to AI companies in this way. Several other ideas are floated in the whitepaper, as well:

  • Infrastructure Investment Swaps
    • “In traditional investment models, profits are not truly realized until an asset is
    • paid off, sold, etc. and the initial principal is not available to the investor until after this period. This decentralized model utilizing Blockchain tokenization creates liquidity from the beginning, which is an immensely valuable and powerful function.”
  • Machine-to-Machine Payments
    • Imagine a robot paying another robot to repair it, or a vending machine paying a delivery robot for restocking.

In day to day to use, MyBit’s design calls for agnostic payments. Any currency should work, although all funds eventually become $MyB tokens. Any situation where there are barriers between entrepreneurs and funding, or people and resources, the MyBit platform will have opportunities to return value. Unfortunately, it will be among a sea of competing interests, and a lot of things have to go right for it to actually succeed long-term.

MyBit Team

Prague-based (American) founder Ian M. Worrall has a few credits to his name, many of which are blockchain related. One of his first ventures was Auction Pyschic, which he says he grew and sold within 8 months. His last position was with Encrypted Labs, who acquired his firm Adorn Labs in August last year. Notable as to his business chops is that he was deemed “a top 20 student Entrepreneur in the USA by the [Global Student Entrepreneur Awards] in 2014.”

CTO Ching Pong Siu has a lot more of a career behind him. In April, he finished a stint working for iSunTV as an Engineering Manager. iSunTV is tangentially related to MyBit, as it is “rebuilding the media industry on blockchains.” Before that he apparently worked on Bitcoin gambling type applications, for Bitgames. Dating back to 2011, he has held significant positions in regards to technological implementation everywhere he has been.

Reporting to him are a litany of developers for every aspect of the project, already on board and apparently on salary. Among these is Alex Dulub, who “brings 10+ years experience in designing high-performance and functional enterprise applications. ” This is encouraging.

Token Distribution Details

5,000,000 $MyB tokens will be put up for sale on July 17th.

Our goal is to limit purchaser risk to the extent reasonably possible. Brave New Coin is managing the escrow release schedule and if at any time the MyBit team does not meet development expectations, then the remaining funds still held in escrow will be returned to contributors.

The whitepaper does not describe what becomes of any tokens that are not sold. Tokens will be made available at the conclusion of the crowdsale – which ends either when all tokens are sold or when 30 days have passed (August 15th). The tokens will entitle you to 1% of any transaction that takes place on the MyBit network, minus Ethereum transaction fees.

The Verdict

There is a lot to like about MyBit. Like Suncontract, MyBit wants to leverage obvious market trends and incidentally do a lot of good for society. Expansion of renewable resources is a cause that even governments might tap the MyBit Foundation and MyBit.io to help with it. However, MyBit will not be the only one in this market – not by a long shot. The advent of AI and increased presence of decentralized markets/market opportunities are going to spawn the birth of dozens upon dozens of companies serving similar or parallel needs. MyBit’s ultimate success will be in specializing in a few of these use-cases it envisions and fomenting the marketplaces therein, thus a big part of our assessment must be on how much faith we have in the team to get to the 100-yard line.

Risks

  • Regulatory resistance.
  • Adoption could be too slow to stimulate token valuation, resulting in a downward spiral.
  • Suncontract or other plays crowding MyBit out of the market.
  • Large players like Google or Amazon taking an interest in the idea and instantly offering it to their billions of users.
  • Ethereum volatility could make it difficult for market participants to realize their earnings. A market crash could result in a user exodus/token slaughter. Nothing would prevent MyBit from moving to another platform if necessary, however, such as, say, NEO.

Growth Potential

  • The platform’s agnosticism towards application and currency make it nimble; likely to be used in surprising ways once out in the wild.
  • Capitalizing on emerging markets and their demand for resources will be a net positive for the token; focusing on a few, as they intend, is very good business sense.
  • Machine-to-machine payments will be spearheaded by players with lots of capital – this could lead to quick spikes in growth as MyBit is tapped to implement solutions.

Disposition

One wishes there were more known quantities behind the scenes at MyBit, more people with history in such monumental innovations, but it doesn’t matter. The fundamentals are all there, all that is required is a proper execution. Taking into account the above listed risk potential, the author feels comfortable giving MyBit two separate ratings.

The first rating is in regard to its potential versus Suncontract in the decentralized energy business – 4.9 to Suncontract’s 5.0.

The second rating is in regard to the MyBit platform more generally and its potential to make serious money after being implemented in at least a few industries – 6.25.

Investment Details

The MyBit token sale sale begins on July 17th. If your investment is within the first 9,375 Ether sent to the smart contract address, you will be issued an extra 33 $MyB per Ether. After that the rate will be 100 $MyB to one Ether. If you believe you’re going to get involved in MyBit, it might be wise to create your account before the launch, because the servers will be experiencing extra load at the time of the sale.

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Energy

ICO Analysis: Suncontract

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Suncontract is a concept whose time is quickly approaching – a peer-to-peer marketplace for renewable energy. The push to renewable energy is global. According to Bloomberg, over 70% of the more than $10 trillion projected to be injected into new energy sources will go to clean energy by 2040. Analog energy sources will become less and less common, demand will increase with the rise of electric cars, and so renewable energy will become the new norm.

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The project itself is incredibly ambitious as far as ICOs go. It involves dozens upon dozens of challenges – legal hurdles, building the network, interconnecting generators, interfacing with outdated electricity grids, and so forth. It is monumental in scope, and therefore needs a suitably high amount of raised capital to get off the ground and running – which assumes it does not hit some governmental brick wall down the road. For all the goodness there is in this concept, we immediately are entering a heavily-regulated industry where said regulations vary widely.

Let’s see how they handled the hurdles so far.

(more…)

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Commodities

The Aftermath of the Qatar Ultimatum

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The ultimatum that Saudi Arabia and its allies gave to Qatar expired on Monday, and the leaders of the nations participating in the “diplomatic blockade” gathered in Cairo yesterday to discuss the answer by the Gulf state. Investors all over the world were watching carefully, as the event had the outside chance of a significant risk event, with the Irani-Saudi-Turkish power struggle being in the background of the chain of events. The crude oil and natural gas markets are in the forefront of the crisis as well, and the prices of those crucial commodities were closely following the events in the past few weeks.

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Qatar Calls the Bluff?

As Qatar dismissed the demands of the Saudi alliance, the blockading nations faced a situation where they needed to show strength without triggering anything that they didn’t want in the first place. Yesterday they decided to “maintain the sanctions” but did not escalate the crisis for now, despite stating that they would take further steps in the appropriate time, and saying that Qatar’s answer lacked any substance whatsoever.

We would say that Qatar “won” this round by reading the signs well, as the superpowers verbally intervened, trying to calm tensions and avoid a regional conflict that could destabilize the energy complex and the whole Middle East. That might be the reason of this kind of pointless ultimatum that first seemed to be a “casus belli” for more drastic measures.

The Oil Price Tango of Saudi Arabia

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The OPEC’s oil production cut, that was aimed to stabilize the energy segment is still in jeopardy, as Iran is one of the most crucial players in the deal, as the country is still in the ramp-up phase following the lift of the Western sanctions. On an interesting note, it was precisely Saudi-Arabia who launched a price war against the shale industry in 2016, driving crude prices down below $30 per barrel. Now the kingdom got an unexpected help from the global central banks, in the form of rising yields, as the leveraged players in the rising shale industry already started to curb their expansion as credit conditions started tightening.

What Happens Next?

Oil already staged a strong rally in the face of the risk-off shift of the last few days suggesting that investors are removing their worst case scenario bets that would be the collapse of the fragile OPEC deal. That said, we expect oil to remain rangebound in the coming months, as the supply situation is only partly determined by the OPEC, and the slightly shaky shale industry still gives a flexibilty to global production that was impossible in the previous decades. The 4-week production average of the US tells the story, as in the last couple of years the output

The 4-week production average of the US tells the story, as in the last couple of years the output remarkably followed the moves in the price of oil, while before that there was a very low correlation. That fact should cap the price of the crucial commodity and it is unlikely that we see the per barrel price go over $60 anytime soon, barring a full-blown default wave in the sector.

Who Will Rule the Middle East?

The more pressing issue for the world is the question of the precarious balance of the region that could turn upside down if oil and natural gas prices remain “lower for longer”. With the new leadership of Saudi Arabia, the strong but politically divided Turkey, and the recovering Iran all in for dominance, the Qatar crisis might be an important step towards a solution- for better or worse. But for now, the imminent threat of a major conflict seems to be low, and that could cause a sigh of relief across the globe.

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