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Mode Global shares sink after Ocado, Boots and Homebase deny involvement in bitcoin scheme

·3-min read
Boots denied taking part in the scheme  (PA Wire/PA Images)
Boots denied taking part in the scheme (PA Wire/PA Images)

Shares in a London-listed fintech business crashed today after claims it was working with some of the UK’s top retailers on a bitcoin cashback scheme crumbled.

Mode Global sunk as much as 20% at the open after it was forced to issue a “clarifying statement” on the scheme launched just a day earlier.

Mode said on Thursday it was launching bitcoin cashback in partnership with 40 retailers next year, including Ocado, Homebase and Boots. CEO Ryan Moore said the announcement was a “major step” that would help put “Bitcoin into the hands of millions of customers across the UK."

Chair and founder Jonathan Rowland, the son of the Duke of York’s close friend and advisor David ‘Spotty’ Rowland, tweeted that Mode was “delivering as promised” and suggested his business had “made contact” with Amazon. Shares surged as much as 16%.

Ocado, Homebase and Boots all subsequently denied being involved in the project.

A Boots spokesperson said: “Boots is not involved with this scheme. We have not been directly approached by Mode and they have used our name without permission in their press release and marketing materials.”

Ocado said: “Ocado has never had any affiliation with Mode, nor any involvement with their announcement from 18th November 2021.”

Homebase couldn’t be reached for comment but told the Times it was not involved in Mode’s project.

Today, Mode was forced to “clarify” its earlier statement. The company said it had engaged with “certain specific brands” through an affiliate programme rather than directly. Several sources with direct knowledge of the situation said the affiliate programme in question was Awin.

Affiliate programmes do not necessarily need direct approval from end companies. However, several appeared to have now proactively blocked Mode after yesterday’s release.

The company said: “Some of those specified brands have since withdrawn Mode as an affiliate.”

Boots is understood to be among the companies to have blocked Mode.

The head of marketing at CoinCorner, another cryptocurrency business that offers bitcoin cashback, said they had been dropped by Boots in the wake of the Mode announcement.

“CoinCorner have been partnered with Boots for over a year with no issues — they’re one of our most popular merchants,” Molly Spiers wrote on Twitter, sharing an apparent email from Boots.

Mode vowed to still launch its bitcoin cashback programme early next year.

On Twitter, Rowland replied to a tweet about Boots, Ocado and Homebase saying he “fully expect[s] to engage with them in a positive way with a good outcome in the future.”

He tweeted: “We have clarified the statement and we are comfortable with what we released yesterday because it was accurate. Some brands don’t want to be associated to Crypto despite approving us through the affiliate process. We can’t control that unfortunately.”

Shares in Mode Global settled down 6p, or 15%, to 34p.

The swift unwinding of the plan raises questions the approval process for the original statement. Mode was advised by Maitland AMO, a well-known City firm that claims to be “Europe’s leading financial, corporate and political communications consultancy”. Broker Arden Partners helped release the market statement.

Maitland and Arden both declined to comment.

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