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Tech wrap: Bitcoin exchange shutdown; Google gender suit; Softbank-Uber deal; Kaspersky software confusion; Angry Birds $1B IPO

Bulldog

Sep, 15 2017, 8:53 AM

In today's Bulldog wrapup of technology news:

The details:

One of China's biggest bitcoin exchanges says it will end trading after news reports regulators have ordered all Chinese exchanges to close caused the price of the digital currency to plunge.

BTC China said on its website it will "stop all trading business" on Sept. 30. The exchange said it was acting "in the spirit of" a central bank ban last week on initial coin offerings but gave no indication it received a direct order to close.

The central bank has not responded to questions about the currency's future in China.

There was no immediate word from other Chinese bitcoin exchanges about their plans.

Bitcoin's value tumbled 15 percent on Thursday to about $3,300. The famously volatile currency has shed about a third of its value since Sept. 1 but is up from about $600 a year ago.

Bitcoin surged in popularity in China last year as its price rose. Trading dwindled after regulators tightened controls and warned the currency might be linked to fraud.

Two business newspapers reported Thursday regulators in Shanghai, the country's financial center, gave verbal instructions to Chinese bitcoin exchanges to close.

Bitcoin is created and exchanged without the involvement of banks or governments. Transactions allow anonymity, which has made bitcoin popular with people who want to conceal their activity. Bitcoin can be converted to cash when deposited into accounts at prices set in online trading.

A Chinese business news magazine, Caixin, said at one point up to 90 percent of global trading took place in China.

Google faces a new lawsuit accusing it of gender-based pay discrimination. A lawyer representing three female former Google employees is seeking class action status for the claim.

The suit, filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court, follows a federal labor investigation that made a preliminary finding of systemic pay discrimination among the 21,000 employees at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California. The initial stages of the review found women earned less than men in nearly every job classification.

Google disputes those findings and says its analysis shows no gender pay gap.

The suit, led by lawyer James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon LLP, is on behalf of three women — Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri — who all quit after being put on career tracks that they claimed would pay them less than their male counterparts. The suit aims to represent thousands of Google employees in California and seeks lost wages and a slice of Google's profits.

"I have come forward to correct a pervasive problem of gender bias at Google," Ellis said in a statement. She says she quit Google in 2014 after male engineers with similar experience were hired to higher-paying job levels and she was denied a promotion despite excellent performance reviews. "It is time to stop ignoring these issues in tech."

Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said the company will review the suit in detail, "but we disagree with the central allegations."

SoftBank eyes Uber: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that SoftBank is nearing a deal to invest as much as $10 billion in Uber.

The Japanese firm is seeking to buy a 17% to 22% stake in Uber at a steep discount, according to the newspaper.

SoftBank declined to comment on the report.

Worries rippled through the consumer market for antivirus software after the U.S. government banned federal agencies from using Kaspersky Lab software on Wednesday. Best Buy and Office Depot said they will no longer sell software made by the Russian company, although one security researcher said most consumers don't need to be alarmed.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security cited concerns about possible ties between unnamed Kaspersky officials and the Kremlin and Russian intelligence services. The department also noted that Russian law might compel Kaspersky to assist the government in espionage.

Kaspersky has denied any unethical ties with Russia or any government. It said Thursday that it will continue to get its product to customers "through its website and other prominent retailers." Kaspersky software is used by consumers in both free and paid versions, available both online and in stores.

The U.S. government action raised the question of whether those users should follow the U.S. government's lead. Some companies sought to tread carefully, addressing questions from customers who asked about it without alarming those that didn't.

Rovio Entertainment, the Finnish maker of "Angry Birds" and other popular mobile games, says that its initial public share offering will value it at about $1 billion.

The company based in Espoo, Finland said Friday that the shares will be priced in the range of 10.25 euros to 11.50 euros each, for a market capitalization of between 802 million euros and 896 million euros ($953 million to $1 billion).

CEO Kati Levoranta said the listing on the Helsinki exchange "will offer new shareholders an opportunity to become part of Rovio's success."

She said Rovio has become "a global games-first entertainment company." Best known for its Angry Birds mobile game that was launched in 2009, the company has expanded with other games, a movie and had licensed the Angry Birds brand.





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