Belarus allows traders to buy shares with bitcoin
By Andrei Makhovsky
MINSK, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Belarus launched a platform on
Tuesday allowing traders to buy shares, gold, foreign exchange
and other traditional assets with cryptocurrencies, which it
says is the world's first regulated tokenised securities
Belarus has developed a flourishing IT industry and launched
a series of business-friendly reforms after a 2015-2016
recession. It passed a law in December 2017 on cryptocurrencies,
aiming for them to become a way for companies in the country to
attract funding from foreign investors.
The government has not commented on the new platform but its
launch was covered by the state news agency BelTa on Tuesday.
The platform allows traders to buy tokens using
cryptocurrencies through a website or app. The tokens track the
value of assets such as shares both in Belarus and abroad. The
government allowed such transactions to be tax-free until 2023.
The project was launched by two IT-focused investment
companies, VP Capital and Larnabel Ventures.
"This is the first platform in the world where
cryptoinvestors will be able to diversify their investments into
real assets," VP Capital's owner Viktor Prokopenya told Reuters.
The platform issued 150 types of tokens corresponding to
traditional financial instruments on Tuesday, and expects to
increase that to 10,000. Among other things, the platform offers
the sale of shares in companies like Apple Inc, gold,
oil and metals.
Within the first two hours, it received 2,000 applications
for registration. According to Prokopenya, a trader must undergo
a verification procedure to guard against money laundering.
Virtual currencies are volatile and fell sharply year amid
increased regulatory scrutiny and amid some instances of hacks
and thefts at crypto exchanges.
"The standards that have been developed in Belarus are
correct, they correspond to accepted international practices,"
"We believe that this project will allow Belarusian
companies to attract additional funding both domestically and
externally," he added. "Because at the moment the stock market
of Belarus is far from the state in which it should be."
The former Soviet republic, squeezed between Russia and the
European Union, is still dominated by the state, weighed down by
bureaucracy and inefficient state-owned enterprises, and
sustained by Russian money and subsidies.
But despite President Alexander Lukashenko once referring to
the internet as "garbage", the authorities have offered benefits
to the IT industry such as tax breaks.
The sector has grown by around 20 percent annually. IT
exports grew 40 percent in the first nine months of 2018, having
crossed $1 billion for the first time in 2017.
(Editing by Matthias Williams and Susan Fenton)
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