The Monetary Authority of Singapore has granted Coinbase Singapore in-principle approval under the Payment Services Act to provide regulated services in the city-state, the company said Tuesday. About 15 firms have received such permits since Singapore launched the licensing regime in 2019, including rival Crypto.com.
Singapore will be a “beachhead” for Coinbase’s planned expansion in the Asia-Pacific region, where markets like Indonesia and Vietnam are attractive, said Hassan Ahmed, chief executive of its local unit. Coinbase this month unveiled a revamp of its operations in Australia, part of efforts to bolster growth overseas.
“We see Singapore as a strategic market for institutional clients as well,” Ahmed said in an interview. He also pointed to Australia and Japan as “very key markets within the broader APAC sort of region that we’re going to continue to double down on.”
Coinbase has around 100 employees in Singapore, Ahmed said. The firm has been selective about hiring in recent months but is “starting to get a little bit of appetite back,” he said.
Singapore has been emerging as a key crypto hub in Asia, with a regulatory regime that’s seen as more comprehensive than that of rival financial center Hong Kong. But the pace of issuing licenses has been slow, with a string of industry upheavals causing the MAS to take a cautious approach to welcoming new players.
Three Arrows, a crypto hedge fund that at one point was based in Singapore, is being liquidated after aggressive bets on digital assets blew up as token prices crumbled.
Hodlnaut, a crypto lender which holds a license in Singapore, was granted protection from creditors by the local High Court in August, after the market rout prompted it to halt withdrawals. At around the same time, the MAS said it’s considering restricting retail investors’ use of leverage and credit facilities to trade digital assets.
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong is prioritizing international growth after cutting almost a fifth of the company’s workforce and reporting second-quarter revenue and trading volume that missed estimates. Its shares are down 73% year to date, underperforming the MVIS CryptoCompare Digital Assets 100 Index’s 60% decline.