Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), the oldest bank in Thailand, has announced a majority stake acquisition of Bangkok-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitkub. The deal, worth THB 17.85 billion (roughly Rs. 3,994 crore) is due to be completed by the first quarter of 2022, barring any regulatory hiccups and is expected to bring “new growth value in the long term amid a new financial world” for the bank. Although this merger, in particular, may not have immediate global ramifications in terms of scale, the SCB-Bitkub deal will go down as one of the biggest mergers and acquisitions in crypto, globally.
Licensed by the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and started in 2018, Bitkub is one of the few licensed crypto exchanges that operate in Thailand. The exchange has a reported trading volume of over $30 billion (roughly Rs. 2,23,772 crore) from January to September 2021, making it the country’s largest crypto exchange by a massive margin, holding a market share of over 90 percent.
SCB has been operational for over 114 years, and is not new to the crypto world either. The bank operates a venture capital unit called SCB 10X that invests in blockchain and decentralised finance (DeFi) startups. SCB10X is an investor in crypto firms such as Ripple, BlockFi, and Alpha Finance. Back in April 2020, SCB also began using Ripple’s payment network called RippleNet to enable cross-border payments with digital money transfer service Azimo.
That said, the crypto ecosystem in Thailand isn’t free of regulatory hurdles. The Thai SEC, back in June this year banned crypto exchanges from allowing meme coins such as Dogecoin and Shiba Inu to trade. Fan tokens and collectables based on non-fungible tokens (NFTs) were also put on hold.
Bitkub had a run-in with Thailand’s SEC earlier this year, being asked to temporarily shut down and fix issues causing severe outages. After ordering a shutdown, the regulator provided Bitkub five days to fix the problems that had caused three outages in January amid increased trading activity. During one of the three reported outages, the platform was reportedly down for 16 hours before trading resumed.
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