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Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has formed a joint venture with billionaire Sarath Ratanavadi’s Gulf Energy Development and will apply for a license to operate a digital asset exchange platform in Thailand.
The partnership, which was first announced in January, comes amid growing demand for cryptocurrencies and other digital assets in the Southeast Asian country. On top of the joint venture in Thailand, Gulf Energy said it has separately agreed to invest in BNB (often called Binance Coin), a cryptocurrency issued by the exchange that allows users to access utilities across its blockchain, as well as an investment in the preferred stock of Binance’s U.S. affiliate which operates under the name Binance.US.
“The company believes that this multi-level cooperation with Binance, which is the global leader in blockchain infrastructure technology, is aligned with the company’s target to be the leader in digital infrastructure while providing further opportunities for the company to expand into other digital asset-related initiatives in the future,” Gulf Energy said Monday in a regulatory filing to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
Gulf Energy, one of Thailand’s biggest power producers, has been diversifying its portfolio with investments into renewable energy, toll road projects and telecommunications. The company in October reached an agreement with Singapore’s telecom giant Singtel to develop a data center business in Thailand. It came months after Gulf Energy acquired more shares of Intouch Holdings, which owns Thailand’s largest mobile phone operator.
Binance, which was established in 2017 by billionaire Changpeng Zhao, who goes by CZ, and fellow cofounder He Yi, is expanding in Thailand as regulators have been stepping up scrutiny of the nascent industry. The nation’s central bank said in December it was considering rules that would regulate the usage of cryptocurrencies as a mean of payments, a move likely aimed at controlling the risks digital assets might bring to financial stability and also provide some safeguards for investors.
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The crypto giant has already run into trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand, which filed a criminal complaint in July against the company for operating without a license. The offence carries a penalty of two to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to 500,000 baht ($14,854). Binance said earlier that the platform had not been actively soliciting users in Thailand.
Binance has been expanding its foothold in the Middle East after recently securing separate licenses across Abu Dhani, Bahrain and Dubai. (Disclosure: Binance recently announced a strategic investment in Forbes.)