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World’s youngest self-made billionaire is 27-years-old and hails from Ireland

At 27, John Collison is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. It’s rumoured to be lonely at the top but luckily Collison has his 29-year-old brother, Patrick – who also counts his wealth in ten digits – to keep him company.

The two brothers from a small village in rural Ireland founded Stripe, a company which runs the software behind more than 100,000 businesses. It handles online payments as well as providing a host of other services that help make it simple for firms to run their websites.

Many people may not have heard of Stripe but it counts Tesla’s Elon Musk and PayPal founder Peter Thiel as investors. A funding round last year valued Stripe at over $9bn ($7bn), meaning the Collison brothers each have a stake worth at least $1.1bn, according to Forbes magazine.

Despite this huge success, a recent interview with the BBC suggests John and Patrick remain down to earth.

Asked about experiencing vast wealth at such a young age, John said: “People now ask this a lot and I feel like they always want some really interesting answer – and I have nothing for them.”

“People ask ‘how has your life changed?’, and they want me to have taken up some elaborate new hobby, like Faberge egg collecting or yacht racing.”

Wealth is not new to the precocious pair. They both made their first million before they even went to university, thanks to another startup which helped companies make the most out of eBay.

John went to Harvard and Patrick attended the equally prestigious Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) but both dropped out in 2011, to focus on using their coding skills to build Stripe.

“You might wonder what is hard about starting an [online] business,” John told the BBC.

“Creating a product that people actually want to buy, and getting them to hear about it, all that we could handle. But getting money from people over the internet was extremely difficult.

”I remember saying to Patrick ‘how hard can it be? Maybe we should give it a try?’.“

There are numerous companies trying to help other firms process online payments but Stripe has managed to grow rapidly, priding itself on a simple business model and simple code.

In the UK it charges 1.4 per cent of the value of each transaction plus 20p, and firms can be up and running in a couple of minutes because Stripe “eliminates needless complexity and extraneous details”, according to its website.

Surpassing the billion-dollar mark doesn’t seem to have slowed the brothers’ ambitions. They point out that 5 per cent of consumer spending around the world is currently online.

”We are indexed to the growth of the internet economy. As long as the internet economy continues to grow, Stripe will continue to grow,” John told the BBC.

“I don’t know about you, but I think that is a very safe thing to bet on.”

Brexit: UK ‘ready to pay more to the EU’

Brexit supporters in the cabinet have agreed the UK should offer to pay more money to the EU as it leaves.

But no formal offer will be made until the EU agrees to begin talking about a new trade deal with the UK.

No new figure has been given – but it is thought it could be up to £40bn, which would be double what the UK’s offers so far add up to.

The UK and the EU have yet to agree on the so-called “divorce bill” with the UK due to leave the EU in March 2019.

Some Conservative MPs have reacted angrily to the possibility of the UK agreeing to pay more – yesterday one, Nigel Evans, said it would be like a “ransom payment” to the EU while another, Robert Halfon, said it would make voters “go bananas”.

But despite this, BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said leading Brexiteers in Theresa May’s cabinet, like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, had agreed to support her in paying a “much larger sum” – as long as the EU agrees to begin trade talks, which it has refused to do so far.

And no final figure will be agreed until a trade deal is agreed, he added.

The UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, and served the EU with formal notice of Brexit in March 2017. This began a two-year countdown to the UK’s departure day which will be in March 2019.

Before that the two sides have to agree all sorts of things – including what happens to EU citizens living in the UK and British people living in the EU, and how the Northern Ireland border will work.

So the two teams of negotiators have been meeting in Brussels every month.

But there has not been much of a breakthrough so far, with the “divorce bill” proving to be one of the key sticking points.

Part of the problem for Theresa May is that while the EU wants the UK to offer more money, some of her MPs say this would be unacceptable and that the UK should just walk away and leave.

EU leaders are due to decide at a summit on 14 and 15 December whether to allow talks on a future trade relationship to begin.

It was billed as a key meeting where Theresa May would try to get her ministers on side to support her in negotiating cash with the EU.

Downing Street has been tight-lipped about what was actually discussed at the Cabinet Exit and Trade (Strategy and Negotiations) sub-committee, chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May.

But the BBC understands ministers concluded there is the possibility that talks with the EU will move on to the next phase in December but “we are not going to move on our own”.

There were also tensions over the future role of the European Court of Justice.

Some believe the court will need to supervise the trading rules between the UK and EU during a period of transition after Britain leaves.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has floated the idea of a tribunal, similar to the arrangements in place in European Economic Area countries such as Norway, to settle any disputes.

But the EU may insist on a continued role for the European Court of Justice.

The EU says the UK needs to settle its accounts before it leaves. It says the UK has made financial commitments that have to be settled as part of an overall withdrawal agreement.

The UK accepts that it has some obligations. And it has promised not to leave any other country out of pocket in the current EU budget period from 2014-20.

But the devil is in the detail.

There are also issues like pensions for EU staff, and how the UK’s contribution to these is calculated for years to come, and the question of what happens to building projects – for instance in Spain – that had funding agreed by all EU members including the UK but which will only begin construction after the UK has left.

Large amounts of the EU’s budget are spent in two areas – agriculture and fisheries, and development of poorer areas.

Projects include business start-ups, roads and railways, education and health programmes and many others.

Ashurst

Ashurst loses third London partner in three weeks

Ashurst City disputes partner Ben Giaretta is set to move to Mishcon de Reya.

Giaretta, who has spent 18 years at Ashurst, is the third London partner to quit during the past three weeks. He will join Mishcon in 2018.

In late October, corporate partner James Wood left the firm to join Sidley Austin’s London base. His exit was followed by the news earlier this week that White & Case has hired fellow London corporate partner Dominic Ross. His arrival date at the US firm is yet to be confirmed.

Giaretta joined Ashurst in 1999 and was promoted to partner in 2009. That year, he also relocated to Singapore to launch a disputes practice. While in Singapore, he headed up the Asia international arbitration practice until he moved back to London in 2016.

Mishcon head of dispute resolution Kasra Nouroozi said: We are really excited that Ben is joining our growing international arbitration practice. His focus on commercial arbitration is the perfect complement to our existing strength in investor state work, as developed by Karel Daele over the past few years. Ben brings an exceptional depth of experience, and we look forward to welcoming him to the team.”

He is the first lateral partner hire in London for Mishcon since June this year, when Withers private client partner Filippo Noseda joined the firm.

Previously, in May, the firm also recruited two BLP partners – restructuring and insolvency partner David Leibowitz and property litigator Joanna Lampert.

Other exits from Ashurst include its seven-partner New York CLO team, following a restructuring of the firm’s finance practice. Six partners joined US firm Chapman & Cutler while one joined Allen & Overy.

An Ashurst press spokesperson said: ”Ben helped build our international arbitration practice in Asia during his seven years in Singapore and, following his return to London last year, supported the growth of our global practice from there.”

The spokesperson added that the international arbitration practice is a key priority for the firm going forward. ”We have a very strong bench of arbitration talent in all regions at all levels and under the leadership of [global international arbitration head] Matthew Saunders, we are confident that the team will continue to achieve great results.”

The firm has made several global hires this year, including German banking partner Martin Kaiser from Baker Mckenzie in September and banking senior associate Tamer Bahgat from Allen & Overy in March.

Bitcoin hits new record high, falling just short of $8,000

Cryptocurrency has gained 17 per cent this week, touching a high of $7,997.17

Bitcoin has picked up right where it left off, capping a resurgent week by climbing within a few dollars short of a record $8,000 just days after a plunge of as much as 29 percent from the previous high tested the confidence of advocates of the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin has gained 17 per cent this week, touching a high of $7,997.17 during Asia hours before moving lower in late trading. The rally came after bitcoin wiped out as much as $38bn in market capitalisation following the cancellation of a technology upgrade known as SegWit2x on 8 November.

While multiple reasons have been cited for the price volatility, one of the more viable is that some investors were switching to alternative coins. Bitcoin cash, an offshoot of bitcoin that includes many of the technical upgrades being debated by developers, had more than doubled in the same period.

“My sense is that today’s rally is driven by a resurgence in interest and viability for the SegWit2x hard fork,” Spencer Bogart, head of research at Blockchain Capital, said in an email. “Despite the fact that it was called off, there is still some group of people that will follow through with the intended fork. As a result, I believe some capital is rotating out of other crypto-assets and into bitcoin to make sure they receive coins on both sides of the fork.”

The main difference between bitcoin and bitcoin cash is the block size — the fundamental units that make up the blockchain at the heart of the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin cash offers a larger block that holds more data, meaning faster and cheaper transactions according to supporters of the new rival.

Those supporters view the size increase as the update bitcoin needed to become a better means of exchange to compete with payment services such as Visa or Master Card. Bitcoin handles about seven transactions a second, compared with around 2,000 for Visa.

“I look at it as similar to software where there can be multiple versions,” said Mike Kayamori, chief executive of Quoine, in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “That said, having too many will confuse the general public so it’s not a good thing if there’s too many.”

Kayamori said he could see a time when legacy bitcoin is treated more as a pure currency while bitcoin cash, with its higher block size, could be more useful for commercial operations.

This year’s surge comes as the digital currency starts to gain mainstream acceptance as a financial instrument after CME, the world’s biggest exchange, said it would start bitcoin futures next month. Swiss structured products houses Vontobel and Leonteq Securities AGwill said Thursday they’ll offer separate products that will allow investors to profit if the price of bitcoin tumbles.

Brexit: How the Netherlands is braced for ‘no deal’

The Netherlands could be one of the hardest-hit EU countries if the UK leaves the bloc without an agreement. The Dutch government is expected to unveil plans this week in preparation for a hard Brexit. The BBC’s Paul Moss has been to Rotterdam to see the adjustments already being made.

It is not like they are unaccustomed to challenges.

The people of Rotterdam have seen it all – their famous port was bombed by the Germans in World War Two, and once they occupied the city it was bombed again by the British and the US. But right now, there is a more prosaic problem vexing local people, like Peter Westdijk, from cargo company DFDS.

“We have to divide our terminal into separate parts,” he says, standing at the harbour side, “and that will cost a lot of money.”

Mr. Westdijk’s problem is that much of the cargo he ships goes to and from the UK. And with negotiations on Brexit showing little sign of progress, he has to prepare for what happens if the UK leaves with no trade agreement in place – which could well mean customs checks on goods which until now have flowed freely.

“You can’t estimate the amount the delays will cost,” he says, “but it will be considerable.”

The port of Rotterdam is just one segment in a whole network of commercial ties between the Netherlands and the UK. More than €50bn ($59bn; £45bn) worth of goods and services flow between the two countries every year.

When you factor in suppliers and ancillary businesses, the UK is responsible for 4% of the Dutch economy. So an end to free trade between the two, the imposition of tariffs or other barriers, could well make a dent in Dutch growth figures.

Yet paradoxically, this threat offers potential support to a key argument deployed by the pro-Brexit side. In the run-up to the referendum, they insisted it would be easy to negotiate a trade deal with the EU, on the basis that “they need us as much as we need them.”

With the Netherlands and other countries vulnerable to the consequences of a hard Brexit, Britain might indeed be seen to have leverage in any negotiations.

It was a suggestion I made to a Dutch MP specialising in European affairs, Anne Mulder. Was it time, I asked, for the Netherlands and other influential EU nations to offer the UK more concessions, given all would suffer from a breakdown of talks?

The Dutch have a reputation for politeness, and I was expecting a reply laden with diplomatic euphemism. What I got was a surprisingly pithy denunciation of Britain’s politicians, and their approach to the Brexit negotiations:

“Some of them are unrealistic, they are not rational… they are always saying the ball is in the EU’s court. Well there’s a great big ball in their court, but they don’t want to see, because they are blind.”

And what about the claim that the EU needs the UK just as much as the UK needs the EU?

“If you want to dream, do it at night,” he suggested.

When it comes to those UK-EU negotiations, it seems the current betting here is on failure.