Medicinal Cannabis: Growing opportunities for the world economy

Thanks to its medicinal properties, cannabis has been increasingly gaining popularity around the globe. While some countries have introduced legislations and set up strategies in order to decriminalise the consumption of medicinal cannabis, others have acknowledged its role but are still awaiting further research confirming its capabilities to ease conditions and treat symptoms.

Nonetheless, due to high demand for medicinal cannabis and CBD products, hemp seems to be the next emerging market consequently contributing to the growth of the global economy.

Europe setting standards in cannabis production

With the recent wave of legislation regarding cannabis-based products, it is believed that the European market holds a key position both in medicinal and retail cannabis. This is due to a combination of variables such as population growth, GDP, national healthcare, and tarditional use in many countries, making Europe an attractive market for global producers.

For instance, in 2017 Germany signed a law that allows the use of the cannabis plant. This would in turn allow healthcare professionals to prescribe medicinal cannabis products to patients suffering from severe health issues such as chronic pain, vomiting, and nausea.

In 2013, Czech Republic legalised medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic pain, epilepsy, chemotherapy induced side effects, and other severe disease indications. Moreover, the law allows patients with marijuana prescriptions to purchase the medicinal marijuana from pharmacies.

However, cultivation of marijuana in not allowed in the country, therefore suppliers need to import medicinal cannabis from other economies. This implies that a huge potential for growth of the medicinal cannabis industry in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

So far, the European Union national regulators have struggled to get to grips with the regulation of cannabidiol products, which has proven difficult given that CBD is not a scheduled controlled substance, hemp food products were historically consumed, and extracts of the plant were manipulated for use in medicines and many other applications.

The two cannabinoids — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are most often used in the treatment of certain diseases or easing of certain health conditions such as pain, blood pressure, memory, concentration, appetite, sensory stimulus, muscular problems, and seizures.

European standards are now the benchmark for market entry, and Europe has an opportunity to lead the way in establishing sensible regulatory systems that provide safe access to appropriate products, while not unnecessarily burdening what has been a historically widely-consumed product.

Medicinal Cannabis in UK: access to treatment still an ongoing issue

Although the government announced the legislation of medicinal cannabis for patients via NHS prescription in November last year, the high expectations among the public of the benefits of medicinal cannabis are not being met. Doctors are unwilling to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients based on the claim that there is still little evidence due to lack of clinical trials.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: “Although the recent changes to government policy were welcomed, there was a failure to communicate what this would mean in practice for the availability of medicinal cannabis.”

Although the recent changes to government policy from schedule 1 to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, making it far easier to carry out trials into medicinal cannabis were welcomed, there was a failure to communicate what this would mean in practice for the availability of medicinal cannabis.

She added: “Expectations were unfairly raised that these products would become widely and readily available, and there needs to be far clearer communication that this is not the case.”

It remains to see whether the UK, like the rest of Europe, will take a more proactive stance on implementing the practical availability of medicinal cannabis.

Medical cannabis is gaining momentum in Asia

At the moment, many Asian countries are softening their approach to cannabis, but the plant remains illegal in the majority of Asian nations.

Seoul and Bangkok look to be leading the way in the normalisation and legalisation of medical marijuana with government licenses. However, after Thailand’s legalisation of medical cannabis in February, it is currently the only Asian country that has fully legalised medicinal cannabis.

Some experts predict that other Southeast Asian countries may move towards decriminalising the plant. South Korea surprised many by being the first East Asian nation to legalise medical marijuana last November.

In the same month, Japan approved clinical trials for the cannabis compound Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution used in treating epileptic patients. Market experts argue that due to Japan’s increasing aging population, it is likely to become a big consumer of medicinal cannabis.

Even famously strict-on-drugs nations including Singapore and China have been involved in research into medical applications for cannabis. In fact, China is not only involved in the research but also heavily in production. Asia’s largest economy currently grows nearly half the world’s legal hemp, a strain of cannabis that contains almost no hallucinogens, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Hanma Investment Group (HMI) is the first company to receive permission to extract CBD in China. The country’s largest hemp production firm has been advocating for the benefits of the plant and trying to change the negative connotation most Chinese people hold towards it. The company currently exports 90% of its production, mostly to the United States, Germany, the U.K., the Netherlands, and increasingly to Japan.

”(Chinese) people’s perception of cannabis is no longer as negative as before. We have been reiterating the uses cannabis can be utilised in the medical and health sector,” Tan Xi, HMI’s president, told CNBC in a Chinese-language text message.

The global legal marijuana market — including recreational use — was estimated to be worth $13.8 billion last year and is projected to reach $66.3 billion by the end of 2025, according to a 2018 report from California-based market research firm Grand View Research, making medicinal cannabis an increasingly significant contributor to the world’s economy.

Cardano: Blockchain-powered economic development

Technology has proved to be of the greatest propellers of economic development in recent years. The advent of innovative technologies such as blockchain has offered new solutions to old problems in the global economy. One of the main projects acting in this space is Cardano, a blockchain enterprise based on human-centered approach to innovation with the aim of providing financial services and technological infrastructure to developing countries and to the three billion people who are excluded from mainstream banking services.

Cassiopeia Services is pleased to introduce you to the first in a series of industry-focused articles and interviews featuring IOHK’s founder Charles Hoskinson, and the cryptocurrency Cardano ̶ a decentralised public blockchain aiming to provide financial services and ultimately help individuals in developing countries achieve financial inclusion.

Founded in 2015, Input Output Hong Kong (IOHK) is a technology engendering company that, through innovative solutions such as their blockchain platform Cardano, aims to provide financial services to the three billion people worldwide who are currently excluded from mainstream banking, ultimately helping them achieve financial inclusion. Through building solutions, IOHK aims to push for a fairer and more transparent order that would help a great number of people, by means of bringing back trust into the systems.

The company recognises the high potential in future Blockchain studies, as well as its rapidly developing market. As such, education presents a core element of IOHK’s philosophy, consequently shaping its mission: to establish a reputation as a leading institution in the academic study of blockchain by tackling difficult research questions and building a strong foundation in the blockchain industry.

Research Based Approach to identifying and testing solutions

Confirming that education is truly the backbone of its approach, IOHK employs decentralised research teams across the globe, comprised of academic experts in specific fields. The teams work together to bringing innovation and development through collective effort.

In addition, besides bringing innovation to the market, IOHK aims to teach the local talented individuals on the uses and implications of such technologies, thus contributing much more to the field than just a “finalised product”.

IOHK’s Director of Education Lars Brünjes, a Pure Mathematics PhD, explains: “We strive to offer the highest quality teaching to selected students who will become the next generation of young talent in the industry.”

Speculatively, this can have larger implications on further development and growth of the specific market IOHK operates within, as it enables individuals to fully grasp the uses and opportunities the innovation bears.

Cardano: A deconstructed cryptocurrency concept focused on the Emerging Economies

By deconstructing the concept of cryptocurrency, IOHK team created the blockchain platform Cardano. Cardano is home to the ADA cryptocurrency, which can be used to send and receive digital funds. This digital cash represents the future of money, making possible fast, direct transfers that are guaranteed to be secure through the use of cryptography.

Cardano is more than just a cryptocurrency, however: it is a technological platform that will be capable of running the financial applications currently used every day by individuals, organisations and governments all around the world. Cardano will also run decentralised applications, or dapps ̶ services not controlled by any single party but instead operating on a blockchain.

This is the first blockchain project to be developed from a scientific philosophy, and the only one to be designed and built by a global team of leading academics and engineers. It is essential that the technology is secure, flexible and scalable for use by many millions of users.

David Esser, the IOHK’s product manager focusing on Cardano explains the research process in detail: “IOHK employs an evidence-based approach that requires a lot of research upfront by scientists and academics researching on how we might approach something and try to write mathematically provable specifications. When you’re building a brand new technology it’s the things that never existed before, and so during that process we discover the details in how it would fit better for the market. We have to adjust to the realities of the technologies. We spend a lot of time on research and theory before putting down the work.”

A major innovation by Cardano is that it will balance the needs of users with those of regulators, and in doing so combines privacy with regulation. The vision for Cardano is that its new style of regulated computing will bring greater financial inclusion by providing open access to fair financial services for all.

Cardano’s main focus is to apply academic research and evidence-based solution to provide technological infrastructure for the developing world, where blockchain can have a transformational impact: “Emerging markets are where cryptocurrencies matter,” says founder Charles Hoskinson.

By employing a public-private partnership approach with the governments of developing countries, Cardano employs Blockchain, as it is believed to be the best way to rebuild fraudulent systems, looking to enable fraud-free land registration, fairer voting systems and improved supply chains.

Cardano is currently working with projects in 25 developing economies worldwide such as Ethiopia, Mongolia, Georgia, and hopes to be present in 52 African countries by 2020.

Part-1 of our in-depht interview with founder Charles Hoskinson will be live on Friday on our FinancialFox channel. Follow us on @Cassiopeia_ltd @_FinancialFox. Stay tuned!

With Brexit uncertainty still ongoing, businesses look forward and focus on growth

For the past three years, we have witnessed a carousel of Brexit-related ups and downs. Endless trips to Brussels and votes in Parliament have exhausted not only politicians but also the British people and business people who need to keep on working on shaky territory.

In the latest episode of FinancialFox, James Bevan, asset manager and Chief Investment Officer at CCLA shared his insights about Britain’s divorce from the EU, and the post-scenario for the UK and business.

James Bevan talks to PR Guru Stefania Barbaglio in the latest episode of FinancialFox.

Having been in the public sector for many years, James Bevan shares valuable insights about finance, investment, technology, employment and opportunities. He believes that despite diverging views on how to handle Brexit, an orderly exit with a deal is still the best option, as agreed by the majority of Members of Parliament. “I believe a positive deal with the EU might lead to a significant pick-up of investments. I don’t think it is fanciful to suggest that in 2020, the UK could be the fastest growing economy in the G7.”

Nevertheless, there are many challenges which could hinder such growth. James points out that the UK economy is largely reliant on the services sector, and if Britain wants to keep its competitive edge on the global stage, it has to increase internal productivity and entrepreneurship.

In practical terms, the uncertainty around how post-Brexit Britain would look is the same now as it was three years ago. Much has been said about the slowing of the economy as an immediate result of Brexit. Analysts do 2019 to be slow in terms of activity; growth should pick up again next year. According to PwC’s UK Economic Outlook report released in March, UK growth is to dip to 1.1% in 2019 and to strengthen only moderately, to 1.6% in 2020.

Data from PwC UK Economic Outlook March 2019

Fintech continues to boom

While no decisions are made in Westminster and political battles make for a gloomy outlook, in the City of London ̶ and more specifically in Shoreditch’s Tech City ̶ businesses continue to flourish.

Fintech is indeed one of the gems of the British finance sector, and rightly so: in the first six months of 2018 alone, the UK attracted a record high £12bn of investment in Fintech. London is quickly catching up with San Francisco, the global capital of fintech. City AM reported that, among the 29 fintech unicorns ̶ companies with a valuation of more than $1bn ̶ nine are in San Francisco, while seven are based in the UK capital. Last year, London received more than a third of the European fintech venture capital funding.

Will this trend continue to point upwards after Brexit? Some experts think so, as investments in digital banking projects continue to pour in in 2019. According to QZ, the chief executives of the payment app and fintech unicorn Revolut, and Clausematch, a compliance company, get five to six calls from investors each week. Revolut CEO Nikolay Storonsky claimed that Revolut may look to raise $500 million or even more in 2019 as the company’s valuation increases.

Data from Quartz, February 2019

Anne Boden, CEO of digital banking platform Starling Bank, says the positive outlook on UK’s fintech can be attributed to the uniqueness of the companies, and that not many new projects are being licenced.

Trade and New Partnerships

One of the main arguments of Brexiteers is that, once outside the EU, the UK would have more autonomy over its trade agreements and commerce partners. In the technology sector, we see that the UK has proactively looked for partners outside the European bloc. Closer relationships with emerging markets are particularly positive in this scenario, given the rapid growth of their digital economies and the market opportunities posed for fintech companies based in Britain.

International partnerships are crucial, given that most the UK’s trade agreements nowadays happen within the EU, rather than outside. In a quest to widen its outreach, British officials have started talks with other countries.

In March, leading members of the Thailand and Vietnam Fintech communities were in London to visit world-leading Fintech businesses.

“As we leave the EU, the UK is working harder than ever to build Fintech partnerships with others. We have put Fintech at the heart of the UK’s ASEAN Economic Reform Programme, which will focus on Southeast Asia and which aims to promote inclusive economic growth. This three-year programme will provide technical assistance and the opportunity to share experiences in support of the continuing development of Fintech regulation in Thailand, Vietnam and some other ASEAN countries,” said MP Mark Field about the deepening relationship with nations in Southeast Asia.

Alternative Assets Class: Bear market mood leaves investors seeking more stable options

Equity markets took a dramatic plunge last week. On Friday 26th, global markets recorded their longest losing streak since May 2013 . The MSCI all-country world index, tracking stock markets in 47 developed and emerging countries, closed down 3.7% on Friday.

Despite slight gains over the last couple of days, global markets were still down more than eight per cent for the month. Concerns over Brexit negotiations, as well as the dispute between the Italian government and the EU over the country’s budget, have impacted the markets negatively.

In fact, indexes have been oscillating since 2016 after the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the US led to trade wars and political tensions. These factors have been shaking up the market mood more severely, having direct impact over stocks around the globe.

Equity shareholders are therefore gearing up to take their investments into other areas. But where? The sentiment is no more positive in the crypto sphere. Aside from its typical volatility, the crypto market started the week low and showed no significant bounce.

The cryptocurrency market peaked last year when the price of Bitcoin skyrocketed, reaching $19,000, and the crypto market cap nudged $700 billion. Since then, the Bitcoin price has crashed over 50%, with an ensuing 56% decline of the crypto market cap to $209 billion.

The search for investment options that are less reactive to political environment and market volatility, and safer than cryptocurrencies, opens the way for new forms of bond designed to resist market pressure and provide returns even in adverse circumstances.

Such options may sound unconventional, but they represent a favourable alternative, as well as being a good portfolio diversifier. According to asset managers, they can act as another source of income generation, potential capital appreciation and good balance of volatility.

Stefania Barbaglio, Director at IR firm Cassiopeia Services, which works closely with investors, commented: “Investors are very concerned about the recent market downturn and whether it represents an opportunity to buy, or rather is a warning of a further crash in light of Trump’s policies and the approach of Brexit."

"Some investors are switching to the crypto market and ICOs, where the worst seems to have passed and there is still opportunity to make money in an unregulated booming market; while others are playing on long-term market fundamentals such as uranium upturn or are trying to identify stocks that withstand this volatility. Quite a few are selling and cashing up and waiting for the right investment opportunity.”

Essentially, it is all about a diversified and balanced investment portfolio, powered by thorough and savvy research. Sometimes it is not about how much money you have to invest, but how smart your investment strategy is.

Alternative Assets: Attractive investment option in a bear market

Life settlements is a fragmented, niche sector not on the radar of the standard investor, but it should be. These assets are opening a new door for life insurance buyers and sellers. As birth rates go down and life expectancy keeps increasing, life settlements represent a growing asset group and an investment option suited for investors looking towards assets with less volatility and market sensitivity.

London-listed innovative alternative asset specialist Alpha Growth plc, (LSE: ALGW) is one of the best positioned companies in this sector. The company has great prospects and excellent growth opportunities through acquisitions of complementary and supplementary service providers. Alpha is planning expansion of the business with organic growth, particularly in Europe and internationally. The business started in the US, but Alpha is seeking to grow in the European, Asian and international markets.

Alpha Growth is a financial advisory business providing specialist consultancy, advisory and supplementary services to institutional and qualified investors globally in the multibillion dollar market of longevity assets. With solid experience in the North American market, as well as a global footprint, Alpha is looking to explore young markets. Life settlement markets in Europe, Asia and non-US territories are still immature, but with a growing number of investors, offer great scope for growth and returns.

Since listing on the London Market in December last year, Alpha has addressed the growing need for investments which are more flexible and suitable to current market conditions, launching a hybrid bond tailored to meet the high standards of institutional investors; as well expanding its operations with the acquisition of Alpha Longevity Management Limited.

Earlier this year, Alpha launched its innovative product: a hybrid security called High Yield Return (HYR). The HYR is an attractive risk yield over a 10-year term with minimal correlation to equity and commodity markets, meaning that investors and insurers are not vulnerable to market volatility and price crashes — a very attractive option in these times.

The product is a debt equity hybrid investment, coupled with risk management and quality-rated collateral that provides diversity and safety in return for a range of investors, institutions and insurers.

The market for our services is very niche; we are the only advisory business in this segment with a footprint in the UK and the US, where the assets originate. As an alternative asset, life settlement provides a very high-risk adjusted yield compared to other asset classes. Furthermore, longevity assets are uncorrelated to other financial markets and you know what your return is going to be, your rate is basically locked in,” says Gobind Sahney, Alpha Growth Executive Chairman.

The upward journey of the company and the opportunities in this space are reflected in the rise of its share price since IPO at 1.25p, escalating more prominently after the acquisition of Alpha Longevity in September.

For more information about Alpha Growth visit the company’s website: http://algwplc.com and contact PR and IR Representative Stefania Barbaglio at stefania@cassiopeia-ltd.com