Hong Kong watchdog says Binance not licensed to sell stock tokens in city

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Biance app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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HONG KONG, July 16 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's markets watchdog on Friday said Binance, one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, was not licensed to sell 'stock tokens' in the city, products it said the exchange had offered in other markets.

Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) also said in its statement that "no entity in the Binance group is licensed or registered to conduct “regulated activity” in Hong Kong."

The move followed other warnings to Binance from regulators in Italy, Thailand, Japan, Germany and the United States. read more

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Stock tokens are virtual assets that are represented to be backed by depository portfolios of underlying overseas listed stock.

The SFC said these were likely to be “securities” under Hong Kong rules, and so it may also be an offence to offer them to the Hong Kong public without its authorisation.

“The SFC does not tolerate any violations of the securities laws and will not hesitate to take enforcement action against unlicensed platform operators where appropriate,” said Thomas Atkinson, the SFC’s executive director of enforcement.

Hong Kong plans to bring in legislation requiring all cryptocurrency exchanges in the city to be licensed and only to offer services to professional investors. At present, exchanges can apply to be licensed by the SFC, but are not required to. read more

A Binance spokesperson said it does not currently hold exchange operations in Hong Kong.

"We take our legal obligations very seriously and engage with regulators and law enforcement in a collaborative fashion," the spokesperson added.

In a separate statement on Friday, Binance said it would stop selling stock tokens. read more

Binance last month was the world's biggest exchange by spot trading volumes, data from UK researcher CryptoCompare showed, with trading volumes reaching $668 billion - a near 10-fold jump from July 2020. read more

The platform offers a wide range of services to users across the globe, from cryptocurrency spot and derivatives trading to digital wallets and stock tokens.

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Reporting by Alun John and Twinnie Siu; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jason Neely

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