Crypto exchange Coinbase secures Singapore payments licence

By Rae Wee and Elizabeth Howcroft

(Reuters) -Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has been awarded a full payments licence to operate in Singapore by the city-state’s central bank, the U.S.-based company said on Monday.

The Major Payment Institution (MPI) licence, granted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), will allow Coinbase to offer digital payment token services to individuals and institutions in Singapore, which has emerged as a centre for crypto in Asia in recent years.

Coinbase, the world’s largest listed crypto exchange, was granted initial approval in October last year.

Singapore has having attracted digital asset companies from countries including China and India. Coinbase said it is a “vital market” for the company, citing survey data showing that 32% of Singaporeans own crypto or have done so in the past.

But a series of collapses at crypto firms in 2022, including hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, cooled enthusiasm about the industry. Singapore’s state investment firm, Temasek, cut the pay of the team who recommended a $275 million investment in now-bankrupt FTX.

The MAS, which is Singapore’s central bank and financial regulator, said on its website last month that it only grants licences to cryptocurrency firms if they have robust anti-money laundering controls and that “most applicants have not been successful”.

Fourteen companies, including the Singapore arms of British fintech Revolut and London-based crypto firm, have obtained a crypto payments licence, the MAS said.

Reuters reported last year that around 180 companies had applied for the crypto payments licence in 2020 under a new regime.

In August 2022, the MAS said that it was planning regulations that will make it more difficult for retail investors to trade cryptocurrencies at a time when they seem to be “irrationally oblivious” about the risks involved.

At the time, Ravi Menon, managing director of the MAS, gave a seminar titled “Yes to digital asset innovation, No to cryptocurrency speculation.”

(Reporting by Rae Wee in Singapore; Editing by Jamie Freed and Louise Heavens)