Crypto firm Ripple gets in-principle payments license in Singapore

Technology

Brad Garlinghouse, chief executive officer of Ripple, speaks during the CoinDesk 2022 Consensus Festival in Austin, Texas, US, on Saturday, June 11, 2022.
Jordan Vonderhaar | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Blockchain company Ripple said Thursday it received in-principle regulatory approval to operate in Singapore, in a rare moment of good news for the cryptocurrency industry globally as it faces tightening policy back home in the United States.

Ripple said that it was granted in-principle approval of a Major Payment Institution Licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank.

The license will allow Ripple to offer regulated digital payment token products and services and expand the cross-border transfers of XRP, a cryptocurrency the company is closely associated with, among its customers, which are banks and financial institutions.

XRP was trading at around 50 cents late Wednesday evening.

Ripple, a San Francisco-based fintech company, is mostly known for XRP as well as an interbank messaging services based on blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins many cryptocurrencies.

The company’s on-demand liquidity service uses XRP as a kind of “bridge” between currencies, which it says allows payment providers and banks to process cross-border transactions much faster than they would over legacy payment rails.

But Ripple also operates a blockchain-based international messaging system called RippleNet to facilitate massive transfers of funds between banks and other financial institutions, similar to the global interbank messaging system SWIFT.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Ripple, co-founder Christian Larsen and CEO Brad Garlinghouse with conducting an illegal securities offering that raised more than $1.3 billion through sales of XRP.

Ripple denies the SEC allegations, contending that XRP is a currency rather than a security that would be subject to strict rules.

Singapore is one of the largest currency corridors from which Ripple sends money across borders using XRP, the company said in a press release.

A majority of Ripple’s global on-demand liquidity transactions flow through Singapore, which serves as the company’s regional Asia-Pacific headquarters, Ripple said.

Ripple has doubled its headcount in Singapore over the past year across key functions including business development, compliance, and finance, and plans to continue increasing its presence there.

MAS, the Singaporean financial regulator, was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

The central bank was previously in the news for blasting Three Arrows Capital, the disgraced crypto hedge fund that imploded after betting billions on failed stablecoin terraUSD, for providing misleading information concerning its relocation to the British Virgin Islands in 2021.

The Asian megacity has gained a reputation over the years for being a more financial technology and crypto-friendly jurisdiction, opening its doors to a number of major companies including domestic banking giant DBS, British fintech firm Revolut, and Singapore-based crypto exchange Crypto.com.

Garlinghouse is due to speak at the Point Zero Forum in Zurich, Switzerland, next Wednesday to “discuss the resurgence of innovation in digital assets through investment and thoughtful regulation,” the company said.

It comes on the heels of Ripple’s $250 million purchase of Metaco, a crypto custody services firm, to expand its reach in the Swiss market and diversify away from its home in the U.S. Recently, Ripple’s Garlinghouse said the firm will have spent more than $200 million in legal fees by the time its legal battle with the SEC is wrapped up.

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