Athena says will install 1,500 cryptocurrency ATMs in El Salvador

Eric Gravengaard, CEO of Athena Bitcoin Inc. shows the use of a Bitcoin ATM during a presentation ahead of a news conference in San Salvador, El Salvador June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

SAN SALVADOR, June 24 (Reuters) - Athena Bitcoin plans to invest over $1 million to install cryptocurrency ATMs in El Salvador, especially where residents receive remittances from abroad, a company representative said on Thursday.

According to Athena Bitcoin's website you can use their ATMs to buy bitcoins or sell them for cash.

The firm expects to gradually install some 1,500 ATMs, hire staff and open an office to carry out operations in El Salvador, which in June became the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. read more The move takes effect in September.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele "presented us with a tough challenge of 1,500 ATMs, we will go for that, but in phases. We are a private company and we want to ensure that our development in the country is sustainable," said the firm's director for Latin America Matias Goldenhörn.

Bukele has touted the cryptocurrency's potential as a remittance currency for Salvadorans overseas.

"Initially we are going to bring dozens of machines, (we'll) test what the business model is like in El Salvador, which will probably be different than in the United States," Goldenhörn added.

A year ago Athena installed its first cryptocurrency ATM in El Salvador's El Zonte beach, some 49 km (30 mi) southwest of capital San Salvador, as part of an experiment called Bitcoin Beach aimed at making the town one of the world's first bitcoin economies. read more

The World Bank has said it cannot assist El Salvador's bitcoin implementation given environmental and transparency drawbacks, and the International Monetary Fund has said it saw "macroeconomic, financial and legal issues" with the country's adoption of the cryptocurrency.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by David Gregorio

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