March 22, 2018 / 9:08 AM / 4 months ago

France to create legal framework for cryptocurrency offerings

PARIS (Reuters) - France plans to create a legal framework for raising funds via cryptocurrencies and aims to become a leading center for offerings in bitcoin-style digital currencies, its finance minister wrote on a news website.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks during a news conference after a National Council of Industry at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris, France, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

In an opinion piece on French website Numerama, Bruno Le Maire wrote that he had asked former central bank official Jean-Pierre Landau to draft a proposal for a legislative framework for digital currencies.

“France has every interest in becoming the first major financial center to propose an ad-hoc legislative framework for companies making an Initial Coin Offering,” Le Maire wrote.

An ICO involves a company raising funds by offering investors tokens in return for their cash or cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, as opposed to obtaining shares in the company from a traditional offering.

Le Maire said that an action plan to be presented to the French government in a few weeks will propose giving French market regulator Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) the option to authorize companies to issue “tokens” to raise funds, as long as they respect certain criteria to protect investors.

“This ‘white list’ will provide a precious reference for investors who want to finance serious projects,” he wrote.

Le Maire said that blockchain will offer unprecedented opportunities for French startups to raise funds by issuing tokens in Initial Coin Offerings.

“This promises to create a network of confidence without intermediaries, offers increased traceability and will boost economic efficiency,” Le Maire wrote.

Le Maire said France has a tradition of financial innovation and had created a legal framework for crowdfunding in 2014, had become a leader in green finance and had legalized the use of blockchain for the transfer of securities in December last year.

“Our target is simple: enter into the world of finance of the 21st century by guaranteeing all players the necessary security for their development ... we should not miss out on the blockchain revolution,” Le Maire wrote.

Finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 largest economies meeting in Buenos Aires this week asked regulators to monitor cryptocurrencies but stopped short of proposing any specific action.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Adrian Croft

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