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UPDATE 2-Facebook's Libra support shrinks further as Priceline owner jumps ship

Mon, 14th Oct 2019 15:12

* Libra Association that is overseeing project is due to
meet

* Geneva meeting to set interim articles of association
-Vodafone

* Comes days after Visa, Mastercard, and others abandon
project
(Adds Booking Holding departure, updates remaining number of
supporters)

By Tom Wilson

LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's Libra
cryptocurrency faced a pivotal meeting of backers on Monday,
after the ambitious project to bring digital coins into
mainstream commerce suffered another defection, from online
travel company Booking Holding.

The owner of Priceline, Kayak and Booking.com, on Monday
confirmed that it had pulled out of the group.

Libra lost its last global payments backers on Friday, when
Mastercard Inc and Visa Inc abandoned the
Geneva-based Libra Association. EBay Inc, fintech
startup Stripe and payments company Mercado Pago also pulled the
plug.

The exodus followed warnings from politicians and
regulators, from the United States to Europe, that Libra risked
upsetting global financial stability, undermining users' privacy
and facilitating money laundering.

The latest withdrawals followed the departure of PayPal
Holdings Inc from the Libra Association earlier this
month. It leaves Facebook without the backing of any major
payments firms for the project, due to launch by June 2020.

At the meeting, which will take place in Geneva, members
will agree interim articles of association, said a spokesman for
Vodafone Group Plc, one of the highest-profile companies
remaining in the project.

Articles of association are typically written rules that lay
out how a company or organisation is governed.

The Libra Association will also appoint a board at the
meeting, the Wall Street Journal reported this month.

A spokeswoman for the Libra Association declined to comment
on the meeting.

The group said this month that it would give details after
the meeting of the 1,500 entities that have indicated interest
in the project.

The association, whose remaining 21 members include
ride-hailing firms Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc
, also consists of non-profit organisations, venture
capital groups and blockchain firms.

But the departure of major financial firms means Facebook's
Libra can no longer count on a global player to help consumers
turn their currency into Libra and facilitate transactions. This
presents a new stumbling block for Libra's efforts to convince
regulators and politicians about the coin's safety.

France pledged last month to block Libra from operating in
Europe, while the Bank of England laid out high hurdles it must
meet before its launch. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome
Powell has also suggested the project could not advance before
concerns were assuaged.

Libra, announced as Facebook expands into e-commerce, will
be backed by a reserve of real-world assets, including bank
deposits and short-term government securities, and overseen by
the Libra Association.

The structure is intended to foster trust and stabilise the
price volatility that plagues cryptocurrencies and renders them
impractical for commerce and payments.

(Reporting by Tom Wilson; additional reporting by Ankit Ajmera
in Bangalore and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by
Pravin Char and Lisa Shumaker)

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