Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 22nd 2015 Contents MARCH 22 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | SBG5
Is the world ready
Bitcoin is changing the way people
pay for things and the larger economy
overall. Although bitcoin remains
mysterious and confusing to most
people, there are signs nearly every
day that bitcoin is gaining more and
more legitimacy, not only in technology circles but
also amongst the mainstream.
Bitcoin was pegged in a report by Goldman Sachs
as having the potential to reshape the financial industry,
in large part due to the way the currency decentralised
the movement of money. If that's not enough, just
recently one New Hampshire legislator introduced a
bill that could lead to the state accepting bitcoins for
taxes and fees.
But in order for bitcoin to truly hit the masses, it
will need to be integrated into the services that people
As it turns out, there are a number of entrepreneurs
and startups with the common goal of bringing bitcoin
to more places, apps, and services:
1. Coinbase: A consumer-friendly bitcoin
wallet and payment platform.
Backed by US$106 million in investor funding,
Coinbase recently opened the first bitcoin exchange
based in the US. Customers can buy and sell bitcoins
from Coinbase, which in turn purchases the coins
from other exchanges and stores them on the cus-
tomer's behalf. The company has partnered with
companies like Time Inc. and Dell to facilitate bitcoin
purchases by acting as a go-between and converting
bitcoins to cash.
Coinbase is now entering the exchange market too,
hoping to provide legitimacy and security that foreign
competitors have lacked. Japanese exchange, Mt Gox,
an exchange that once handled 70 per cent of all
bitcoin transactions, lost nearly US$500 million in
bitcoins in a hacking attack and closed in 2014. In
January 2015, UK-based exchange Bitstamp lost nearly
US$5 million when its wallet system was breached.
Coinbase has tried to allay these fears by winning
government support and advertising its safety features.
The company has spent about a year working to
satisfy regulators, and Coinbase says its customers'
bitcoins are insured against theft.
Bitcoin is a decentralised, anonymous electronic
currency that first came into being in 2009. It's still
not clear how far Bitcoin can go in establishing itself
in the mainstream economy, but there are quite a
few large and small businesses accepting Bitcoin as
a means to purchase goods and services. You can use
the cryptocoin to buy produce at a farmers market,
security services from major internet companies, as
well as drugs and weapons from your favorite online
black market. The list of Bitcoin vendors is growing
2. Bitrated: A bitcoin payment service
built on trust.
Bitrated uses multi-signature transactions where
a trusted third party (trust agent) is chosen to resolve
disputes and reverse payments in case of fraud. Two
out of three signatures are required to unlock a pay-
ment: the seller's, the buyer's, and the trust agent's.
If the buyer is happy with the purchased goods or
services, the payment can be unlocked by the buyer
and the seller alone, with no intervention from the
Otherwise, the trust agent will arbitrate the dispute
for a fee, and eventually take either the side of the
seller, in which case the payment will proceed, or the
buyer, in which case the escrowed bitcoin will return
to the buyer.
Using this system, the agent is not able to take the
money and run, because the payment address is fixed
and any decision by the trust agent must still be val-
idated by the seller or buyer. Source: Forbes
Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, second from right, chats with ANSA executives. They are David Sabga, left, chairman, ANSA
Automotive; Jerome Borde, managing director, ANSA Automotive, Energy, and Norman A Sabga, chairman and group CEO ANSA McAL
Group. They were at the launch of the Honda City CNG sedan and Honda HR-V automobile at ANSA Automotive's Classic Motors on
Richmond Streets, Port-of-Spain, on Tuesday. PHOTO: SEAN NERO
ANSA Automotive recorded a 20
per cent increase in sales for 2014
over 2013, a total of just over
3,000 vehicles, Jerome Borde, the managing
director of ANSA McAL s automotive sector
said last week.
Speaking at the launch of two Honda
vehicles on Tuesday night, Borde said the
T&T market for new vehicles grew by 12 per
cent in 2014 and ANSA Automotive sold 19
per cent of all new vehicles in the country
He said that 2014 was a record-setting
year for both T&T's new vehicle market, in
general, and ANSA Automotive, in particular,
as the conglomerate's automotive sector
reported robust profits.
"Last year was a record year for us in
terms of profit. We had an exceptional year
in 2014, which was not only as a result of
higher unit sales, as we have been very con-
scious of how we manage costs and how we
create efficiencies. That really made a big
Regarding sales in 2015, Borde said: "We
are expecting about a 5 per cent growth and
all indications are that sales will equate to
Questioned on the impact on car sales of
the $1.19 billion in public service backpay,
which is due by June, Borde said the launch
of the Honda City CNG is timely as it is a
very affordable car.
"It is timely that we are introducing this
new car with all of these concessions as you
would be hardpressed to find a better-priced
unit. We are actually catering finance pack-
ages around this particular car towards those
Asked about the impact on the price of
vehicles sold locally of the strengthening US
dollar and the weakening euro and yen, Borde
said currency changes have not had as great
an impact as one might think because most
dealers in T&T buy in US dollars.
He said: "However, we were very fortunate
in that we still buy some models of Mit-
subishi in yen and that translated into lower
prices for us, which helped us increase our
Mitsubishi business substantially to the point
where we now dominate the truck market."
He said the lower prices for some Mit-
subishi vehicles have been passed on to cus-
tomers, noting that a Lancer that sold for
$196,000 three years ago can now be pur-
chased for $150,000, a 31 per cent decline.
Borde said ANSA Automotive is the dom-
inant player in T&T's luxury car segment
as it is the dealer for BMW, Jaguar and Land
Asked if more luxury cars were being sold
in T&T, "Our BMW sales have grown by
almost 100 per cent from two years ago and
is now T&T's number 1 luxury brand. There
is a great propensity towards luxury cars,
which is an indication of the economy that
the economy is still strong."
He said while luxury cars only comprise
about 10 per cent of ANSA Automotive's
total vehicle sales, "it contributes much more
in terms of profitability."
Regarding reports that the Central Bank
is mulling over the possibility of reducing
the amount of foreign exchange for the pur-
chase of cars, Borde said: "I am also the
president of Automotive Dealers Association
and generally we would meet with govern-
ment agencies and ministers and none of
that has been communicated to the asso-
ciation. I have not heard and it has not been
said to us."
Speaking as the head of the new car deal-
ers, he said that the overlap between new
and foreign used cars is not as great as might
be imagined as they almost constitute two
"They still have about 40 per cent of the
units sold in T&T so it is still a thriving
He said the Central Bank increases of the
repo rate---and hikes to the prime lending
rate---have not translated into higher rates
for asset financing as yet.
"T&T banks, in my opinion, still operate
in the old traditional way. Car financing is
an easy form of financing and they have not
deviated from that plan. It is so important
to their own growth that I have not seen
interest rates reflect the change in the repo
rate to any great degree when it comes to
vehicle financing. And this is simply because
of the composition of the loan portfolios of
the banking sector, in my opinion."
He said the ANSA McAL group launched
a financing, insurance and service package
10 years ago called IN-One and higher costs
have not been passed on to customers.
"Obviously, if the rates climb higher than
our ability to manage, we will have to rethink
that but at this time it has not impacted the
finance costs to our customers,"said Borde,
adding that over 40 per cent of the division's
vehicles are sold through the IN-One pack-
Asked if there were any dark clouds in
ANSA Automotive's skies, Borde said: "It is
difficult to predict, but everyone in business
today has to think about what happens after
elections. Because our timeline for ordering
cars is about six to seven months, there is
that risk of what comes after the general
election. While we would not view it as a
dark cloud, we need to keep an eye on it."
Record car sales for
ANSA Automotive in '14
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