Coinbase launches retail bitcoin service in Singapore, Canada

NEW YORK, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Coinbase, one of the world’s largest U.S.-based bitcoin companies, has launched retail buy and sell operations in Singapore and Canada as part of its push to expand usage of the digital currency globally.

Singapore is San-Francisco-based Coinbase’s first foray into Asia, said Brian Armstrong, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder.

The money transfer service in Singapore, to be launched on Thursday, will allow consumers to buy and sell bitcoin with Singapore dollars. Armstrong said the service is not considered regulated activity in Singapore.

Unlike conventional currencies, bitcoin is bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network independent of central control. Bitcoin is not backed by a government or central bank, and its value fluctuates according to demand by users.

On Wednesday, bitcoin was trading at $229.35, up 0.6 percent on the day.

Coinbase also launched a retail buy and sell service for consumers as well as an exchange for professional traders in Canada earlier this week.

“About a year ago, we made a decision to offer bitcoin services to as many countries in the world,” Armstrong told Reuters.

At present, Coinbase operates in 28 countries. Armstrong said the goal is to be in 40 countries by the end of 2015. “That would be an aggressive goal. So we may end up 2015 with 30-40 countries.”

Coinbase currently has more than 3.9 million consumer wallets, 40,000 merchants using its payment mechanism and 7,000 software developers using its platform to create new products. (Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Leslie Adler)