Rakuten Acquires Crypto Exchange to Fast-Track Into the Japanese Market

Rakuten Inc. announced Friday that “it decided to acquire Everybody’s Bitcoin Inc. through its subsidiary, Rakuten Card Co. Ltd.” After the stock acquisition, which is expected to take place on October 1, Everybody’s Bitcoin will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rakuten. The acquisition cost is listed as 256 million yen (~US$2,305,484).

The e-commerce giant wrote:

We expect that the role of cryptocurrency-based payments in e-commerce, offline retail and in P2P payments will grow in the future. In order to provide cryptocurrency payment methods smoothly, we believe it is necessary for us to provide a cryptocurrency exchange function, and have been considering entry into the cryptocurrency exchange industry as the Rakuten Group.

Furthermore, the company revealed that a growing number of its FX and securities customers “have been calling for the provision of a cryptocurrency exchange service.”

Founded in 1997, Rakuten claims to have more than 1.2 billion members globally. The company has over 70 businesses across e-commerce, digital content, communications, and fintech. It owns messaging app Viber and has invested heavily in car-hailing service Lyft. In 2016, the firm established a dedicated research and development unit in Belfast called Rakuten Blockchain Lab. In addition, the Japanese government gave Rakuten a concession in April to operate Japan’s fourth major wireless carrier.

About Everybody’s Bitcoin

Known in Japanese as Minnano Bitcoin, Everybody’s Bitcoin began operating a crypto exchange service on March 30 last year. The exchange currently offers the trading of BTC, BCH, and ETH against the yen.

In April last year, the revised Payment Services Act went into effect in Japan, legalizing cryptocurrency as a means of payment and requiring all crypto exchanges in the country to register with the Financial Services Agency (FSA).

Everybody’s Bitcoin applied for a license on September 7, 2017, but its application is still under review. The FSA has, however, approved 16 crypto exchanges. As for those companies that were already operating crypto exchanges prior to the regulation taking effect, the agency has allowed them to keep operating while their applications are being reviewed. These companies are referred to as “quasi-operators” of crypto exchanges or “deemed” crypto exchanges.

Rakuten described:

Currently, Everybody’s Bitcoin operates the business as a deemed cryptocurrency exchange and is waiting for approval of the official registration.

A Fast Track to Registration

Since the hack of Coincheck in January, the FSA has tightened its review process of crypto exchanges. The agency has issued a number of business improvement orders and has temporarily shut down some quasi-operators.

On April 25, Everybody’s Bitcoin received a business improvement order from the Kanto Local Finance Bureau. “Everybody’s Bitcoin is working to implement improvements in the items outlined in the business improvement order,” Rakuten detailed.

Due to the stricter review process, most of the 16 quasi-operators have exited the industry. The FSA confirmed this week to news.Bitcoin.com that only three applications from these operators are left. They are for Coincheck, Lastroots and Everybody’s Bitcoin.

Coincheck was acquired by Monex Group after the hack. Lastroots just had more investments from SBI Group, which also has its own crypto subsidiary, SBI Virtual Currencies, and offers a crypto trading service called Vctrade.

According to Friday’s announcement:

Rakuten Group decided to acquire Everybody’s Bitcoin shares so that it can realize the early registration as a cryptocurrency exchange and develop cryptocurrency services to customers.

According to the e-commerce giant, Everybody’s Bitcoin “decided to expand the business under the Rakuten Group to maximize synergies…in order to further promote its cryptocurrency business.”


source: bitcoin.com

The Ledger: Tesla Tokenization, Bitcoin ETFs vs. the SEC, Indiegogo

Late Friday night, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would stay public, less than three weeks after the CEO initially tweeted that he was considering taking the electric-car company private.

There were many reasons Musk cited for why Tesla was “better off as a public company,” but one of them particularly struck me: “There is also no proven path for most retail investors to own shares if we were private,” Musk wrote in his official statement.

No proven path. Of course, he’s right. U.S. financial regulators restrict ownership of shares in startups and other private companies to so-called “accredited investors”—those considered wealthy enough to be able to afford the additional risks that come with owning stock that doesn’t trade on mainstream markets, making it illiquid.

But there is one risky investment that retail investors can own no matter how rich (or not) they are: cryptocurrency, obviously. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission doesn’t prohibit individuals from buying Bitcoin and other digital assets directly—largely because it can’t, due to the decentralized structure of the blockchains on which those cryptocurrencies run. On the other hand, the SEC has prevented cryptocurrency from becoming even more widely available—such as it did this week by rejecting the rest of the pending applications for Bitcoin exchange-trade funds, or ETFs.

Cryptocurrency, however, is far from “proven” when it comes to offering a responsible way for people to invest and diversify. Just check out this week’s “rekt” section for various tales of individuals who lost their savings in cryptocurrency.

Still, I can’t help thinking that crypto could one day help provide the path that Musk is looking for. It’s an idea that came up a couple of weeks ago on our show Balancing the Ledger, when Andra Capital’s Haydar Haba suggested creating a “Tesla Coin” to solve Musk’s problems.

There’s still a major obstacle in the way, though: Haba and other entrepreneurs offering “security tokens” currently also restrict them to accredited investors in order to stay on the right side of the SEC.

Slava Rubin, co-founder and CEO of Indiegogo, described on this week’s show how his company only sells its security tokens, usually backed by real estate, to those who prove their accredited status through a verification process. But he also alluded to the way tokenization could open up “a whole other asset class to more people” the same way Bitcoin does for investors around the world.

Unlike Bitcoin, though, such security tokens are backed by tangible assets with established real-world value, making them potentially safer for retail investors, Rubin added. “With one of these security token offerings, you have a clear building that has customers, that has employees, that has been around for years,” he said.

Maybe someday the SEC will allow everyone to own tokenized stock of companies—whether they’re public or private.


source: fortune

SEC rejects bitcoin ETFs

The SEC has again disapproved several proposals for a bitcoin ETF.

The latest rejection involves two ETFs filed by ProShares that would track bitcoin futures contracts, another from GraniteShares, and five leveraged and inverse ETFs from Direxion.

This follows on the heels of the SEC’s rejection of the Winklevloss ETF in July that would have traded physical bitcoin.

Similar to its rejection of the Winklevoss ETF, the SEC expressed concern about fraud and manipulation of bitcoin markets. It said that NYSE Arca, which filed the ProShares application, had not met its requirement “that a national securities exchange’s rules be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices. Among other things, the Exchange has offered no record evidence to demonstrate that bitcoin futures markets are ‘markets of significant size.'”

The SEC emphasized that the disapproval does not rest on an evaluation of whether bitcoin or blockchain technology has value as an innovation or investment.

While the SEC has yet to approve a cryptocurrency-based ETF, other applications are still in front of the agency, including an ETF that would track a basket of cryptocurrencies that was filed in July by Bitwise, and the VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust. The SEC announced it was delaying a decision on approval or disapproval of the VanEck ETF until Sept. 30.

source: CNBC

Ripple ‘definitely’ wants to target China with its blockchain-based payments tech, exec says

Ripple wants to target the Chinese market with its distributed ledger technology designed to speed up cross-border payments, an executive at the firm told CNBC.

“China is definitely of interest, it is definitely a target,” Jeremy Light, vice president of European Union strategic accounts at Ripple, told CNBC in a phone interview. “China is definitely a country and region of interest.”

Earlier this year, the blockchain company struck a deal with Hong Kong-based financial services firm LianLian International, aimed at powering the latter’s cross-border transactions between China, the U.S. and Europe. It is not clear whether Ripple’s technology is being deployed by LianLian yet.

Blockchain, also known as distributed ledger, is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. It records transactions across multiple locations, rather than one centralized server. Ripple’s distributed ledger technology is different to bitcoin’s, however, as transactions are validated by a network of independent servers — owned by banks, retailers and traders — rather than the “miners” that validate transactions on bitcoin’s public blockchain network.

If it were to seek an entry into the Chinese market, Ripple’s focus would unlikely be on advancing the adoption of cryptocurrency XRP, as Beijing has clamped down on the trading of virtual currencies. China last year banned initial coin offerings (ICOs), a controversial means of financial technology start-ups raising funds through the sale of new digital tokens.

Ripple currently has more than 100 financial institutions signed up to its network, including Santander, UniCredit, UBS and Standard Chartered. But with just one Chinese client, the firm would have a long way to go before making waves in the country. China is home to a number of large fintech (financial technology) firms, with payment apps like Ant Financial’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay proving popular with Chinese consumers.

Elsewhere in Asia, Ripple has created an app called Money Tap in Japan, in partnership with 61 domestic lenders. The app is designed to allow banks to settle round-the-clock payments in the country.

Most banks and financial firms are uninterested in the cryptocurrency side of Ripple’s offering, however. Ripple is mostly known for its digital token, which is used to essentially bridge payments from one currency to another.

Instead, lenders have sealed deals with the start-up to use its xCurrent product, which is aimed at settling payments instantly around the world.

Ripple’s xRapid platform meanwhile — where XRP is used — has seen interest from money transfer firms including MoneyGram and Western Union. Both uses of the cryptocurrency are in trial phase rather than commercial deployment.

But there are fears the volatility of cryptocurrencies could inhibit XRP from seeing mainstream adoption with banks and other financial institutions. The cryptocurrency soared to unprecedented levels late last year and early this year, notching a record high of $3.81 — and a market value of $147 billion — on January 4, according industry website CoinMarketCap. It has since receded to just 29 cents, a decrease of more than 90 percent.


source: CNBC

More than 5 Million Customers can now Pay utilities using XRP at Coinsph

Ripple’s figure heads can’t be the only ones pitching and insisting that XRP is a utility. Aside the many payment providers spread across the world who see value in XRP, coins.ph, a popular crypto payment platform in the Philippines is yet another provider who finds XRP irresistible. With more than five million customers in the Philippines alone, Coins.ph is adding XRPmeaning their customers can settle their bills using XRP instead of fiat.

Coins.ph is a Philippines based cryptocurrency platform that was launched in 2014. That’s was two years after Ripple the company was incorporated and two years after XRP came into existence. As such they are amongst the very first believers of cryptocurrency justifying their wide customer base. 

More about Coins.ph

According to statistics, Coins.ph has five million customers but by 2020, the company plans to on board 20 million customers spurred mostly by the influence of XRP, the third most valuable cryptocurrency in the world. Other than XRP which is now available on Android version of Coins.ph mobile version, the platform allows customers to settle bills using Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Ethereum (ETH).

Exchanges and Funds attracted by XRP

Of course, news of such development is encouraging for XRP investors who have to contend with strong sell pressure driving the value of XRP from upwards of $3.2 early this year to 30 cents at the time of press. That’s an 80 percent value drop in a span of eight months. 

However, on the bright side of things and complementing developments that draws value as Wirex offering support for XRP and most exchanges as DCEX basing their available trading assets in XRP, the company behind RTXCP and xRapid which make use of XRP are readjusting and decentralizing accordingly. This is of course a huge plus. Remember, even exchanges are following suit and most recently Mike Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch and Arrington XRP Capital acknowledge the benefits of incorporating XRP. 


source: ripplecoinnews

Crypto Exchange Bittrex Expands, Adds Ethereum Classic and XRP Trading Pairs

Cryptocurrency exchange and wallet service Bittrex has announced plans to launch U.S. dollar (USD) trading pairs for two new cryptocurrencies, according to an official announcement published August 8.

Per the announcement, Bittrex is looking to expand its fiat markets to Ethereum Classic (ETC) and Ripple (XRP) on August 20. The new trading pairs will be added to already listed dollar markets for Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Tether (USDT), and TrueUSD (TUSD).

The company says that it will continue gradually adding tokens to its USD markets, using a “phased approach” for USD trading. Bittrex further explained that it takes a gradual approach to “ramping up these markets” in order to ensure quality in processes and systems before making them available to qualified customers. Bittrex said:

“In addition to broader acceptance, expanding fiat markets to the top digital currencies on our trading platform will help limit the dominance and influence of any one token over other blockchain projects – a necessary evolution if we’re going to unleash blockchain’s potential benefits for consumers and businesses.”

Bittrex was founded in 2014 by Bill Shihara and two business partners, all of whom previously served in the security team at Amazon. In February of this year, Shihara announced the exchange’s intention to open up USD trading to the majority of its customers.

In October 2017, Bittrex made a sudden decision to disable thousands of accounts for compliance reviews without warning its users in advance. Later in December, Bittrex temporarily stopped registration of new users, citing an inability to accurately verify each new user due to high demand. The exchange subsequently opened again, but with additional requirements.

At press time, Bittrex is 23rd largest exchange with a trade volume over $72 million. According to Coinmarketcap, it has grown by 16 percent over the 24 hour period.

source: cointelegraph

Coinbase Announces Custody Plans for 40 Digital Assets, Including XRP

By adding new crypto assets, Coinbase is poised to increase its revenue from custody services. This is significant because a growing number of companies are offering cryptocurrency trading, which has been a lucrative business for Coinbase, but where margins are likely to drop in the future.

A Coinbase spokesperson declined to provide a specific timetable for when exactly the custody support for the new assets will be available. The company also says plans to add all 40 of the assets are not definitive.

Coinbase is not the only cryptocurrency company to offer custody (another is Boston-based Circle), and it does not sell many of the assets it plans to store as a custodian. As such, it’s unclear how much the expansion of its custody offerings will boost Coinbase’s revenues.

Currently, Coinbase counts the funds Autonomous Partners, Polychain Cap, and Multicoin Cap among its custody customers. The company says it aims to have more than 100 institutional customers and store at least $20 billion under custody by the end of 2019.

Meanwhile, Coinbase also disclosed on Friday that traders will be able to buy and sell the asset known as Ethereum Classic beginning on Tuesday. The move comes after the company announced in June it would add the cryptocurrency, which is currently the 14th biggest, according to the site CoinMarketCap.


source: fortune

Coinbase Customers Can Now Buy Bitcoin With British Pounds

The San Francisco-based cryptocurrency giant Coinbase said Wednesday that customers in the United Kingdom can now buy digital assets with the British Pound.

The news is significant because, until now, the company’s UK customers had to maintain their fiat funds in euros rather than pound sterling. This meant the process for buying Bitcoin and other digital currencies on Coinbase took several days and resulted in foreign exchange fees.

The upshot is British customers will now be able to carry out same-day payments and withdrawals.

“UK banks have been conservative in terms of working with crypto businesses and we’re proud to be one of the first companies to get access to domestic banking,” said Zeeshan Feroz, the CEO of Coinbase UK.

Coinbase’s support for British pounds (GBP) could also mean a higher volume of cryptocurrency transactions in the United Kingdom, which is the world’s fifth biggest economy.

The company says it will begin adding GBP trading pairs such as GBP-Bitcoin and GBP-Ethereum in the coming weeks. These pairs are the instruments by which traders make bets on currency movements in global foreign exchange markets, and Coinbase expects the new offerings to be popular with professional traders.

In the last month, Coinbase has also suggested it has preparing to expand the number of digital assets it makes available to customers. Due to regulatory uncertainty, the company has so far only offered Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, and Litecoin.

In a recent blog post, Coinbase says it is contemplating the addition of Cardano, Basic Attention Token, 0x, Stellar Lumens, and Zcash. Given the tighter regulatory constraints, it is likely the company will begin offering these tokens first in the UK and Europe.


source: fortune