Publicly-listed Chinese brokerages eye Bitcoin offerings, but there’s a catch

Chinese online brokerages Tiger Brokers and Futu plan to bolster crypto trading services, taking on global players Robinhood and eToro, as per a report in the South China Morning Post today.

Amid the government’s latest crackdown on crypto, Beijing-based Tiger Brokers and Shenzhen-based Futu are focusing only on offshore clients.

Customers outside of mainland China

Tiger Brokers is a Beijing-based company, backed by smartphone giant Xiaomi, that offers trading services for stocks listed on the US, Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore stock exchanges. 

The company has 376,000 customers with deposits ready to trade and reported a first-quarter net profit of $21.1 million, compared to a net loss of roughly $200,000 during the same period last year. 

“We notice cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have become more acceptable by mainstream investors since last year and are emerging as an asset class. Tiger’s mission is to make investing more efficient and enjoyable for investors,” said the chief executive of Tiger Brokers, Wu Tianhua, adding that the company is “not going to offer such a service to Chinese nationals.” 

Futu is backed by another giant, Chinese multinational technology conglomerate Tencent. In recent years Futu diversified its business from just stock trading and initial public offerings, obtaining a license to sell and market retirement schemes to its customers. The company has 790,000 paying customers and its first-quarter net profit rose to $149.5 million.

“We’re in the process of applying for digital currency-related licenses in the US, Singapore, and Hong Kong,” said Robin Li Xu, Futu´s senior vice-president, while revealing the company’s plans to expand into crypto trading in the second half of this year.

Setting up shop abroad

China’s cracking down on onshore trading and mining of crypto contributed to this May’s 40 percent plunge of Bitcoin (BTC). 

In the midst of the latest Beijing FUD, both brokerages stated that the new cryptocurrency trading services they are launching are planned for customers outside of mainland China.

Wu said that Tiger Brokers is already applying for the “relevant licenses,” without disclosing with which regulators. Meanwhile, in order to expand to crypto trading, Futu still needs to obtain a virtual asset service provider license from the city’s securities regulator.

If they succeed, who else are we going to see setting up shop abroad?

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