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Bitmain, Rakuten, Yahoo! Japan, and Japan Railways Group Headline Crypto News this Week

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It is another interesting week in which both crypto and non-crypto companies have made headlines. Bitmain, the largest manufacturer of chip makers has abandoned its Hong Kong IPO plans and replaced its two co-founders as co-CEOs with an in-house engineer. Rakuten, a company widely regarded as the Amazon of Japan, will be launching a cryptocurrency exchange in June this year. Yahoo! Japan has dipped its toes into the cryptocurrency sector through a subsidiary while a U.S based exchange has set sights in expanding into the lucrative Asian markets.

Japan: Rakuten prepares to launch cryptocurrency exchange in June

The Japanese cryptocurrency industry has got another major boost. Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten is set to launch its own cryptocurrency exchange in June this year.

According to the announcement released by Rakuten, the exchange will start accepting applications from prospective clients on April 15. The e-commerce giant received approval from the country’s financial watchdog, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) on March 25.

Bitmain lets IPO filing expire amid management restructuring

The world’s largest manufacturer of cryptocurrency mining equipment Bitmain Technologies has officially abandoned its plans to list at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. This comes after the Chinese-based mining giant allowed its IPO application – filed on Sept. 26 – to lapse after it had reached its six-month expiration date.

The company released a statement confirming the latest developments but did not rule out the possibility of another listing application in the future.

“We will restart the listing application work at an appropriate time in the future,” said the mining giant in a statement.

The firm has been hard hit by the bear market and as a result, the firm had to take desperate austerity measures such as closing its data centers in Israel and laying off a portion of its staff.

At one point, the mining giant was firmly in control of the mining rigs sector and supplied nearly 75 percent of the mining units in circulation at the time. The company reported in its IPO filing that it had registered an impressive $740 million in profits in the first half of last year.

Bitmain also confirmed the rumors that had been going around for a while – the stepping down of two co-founders as co-CEOs.

Micree Zhan and Wu Jihan have both stepped down from their executive positions and have been replaced by Wang Haihao, an engineer who has enjoyed heading several departments within the company.

Yahoo!-backed Japanese cryptocurrency exchange set to go live in May

Taotao, a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange will reportedly launch in May and feature a limited number of cryptocurrencies for trading.

40 percent of Taotao is owned by Yahoo! Japan subsidiary. The exchange, previously known as BitARG, will initially support Bitcoin and Ethereum trading and allows margin positions on Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ripple (XRP).

Prospective users are welcome to open an account and participate in the exchange’s promotional program.

The plan for the new exchange surfaced in March last year when Yahoo! Japan announced that it was acquiring a major stake in the trading platform through YJFX, its subsidiary.

This marks the internet company’s move into the growing cryptocurrency sector as the exchange has already received regulatory approval to operate in the country.

U.S based cryptocurrency exchange expands into Asia

Seed CX, a Chicago-based cryptocurrency exchange with the backing of Bain Capital announced that it is expanding into Asia, one of the most important markets for the young but growing crypto industry.

The exchange has teamed up with Hydra X, a Singapore-based provider of trading infrastructure to help with expansion. As a result of the partnership, Seed CX’s platform will be integrated with Sigma, Hydra X’s trading platform still in beta.

After the integration, Seed CX users will be able to use Sigma’s platform to trade, monitor their portfolios, and view the prices of digital assets.

Hydra X CEO Daryl Low said the firm is using the partnership to on-board institutional traders who make use of Seed CX.

“This partnership will also be useful in expanding our user base to include institutional traders seeking regulated and secure access to the world of digital assets,” said Low.

Seed CX secured $15 million in a series B financing round led by Bain Capital Ventures. The startup has raised $25 million in total.

Japanese largest railway plans to accept crypto payments

Japan’s biggest railway operator, the Japan Railways Group (JR Group) is considering adding cryptocurrencies as a legal payment option on its platform.

Every day, millions of commuters make use of JR Group’s services and its plans to integrate digital assets could lead to massive mainstream adoption.

Reports suggest that the group may possibly launch a cryptocurrency company (possibly an exchange) in partnership with a bank in order to generate more profits from an additional revenue stream. The company may make money from crypto transaction fees.

There are still many options on the table and the railway operator may opt to go with a cryptocurrency issued by a bank. This will likely work in favor of Mizuho, one of the biggest Japanese financial institutions and is developing its own digital asset.

Former Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles appeals data fraud conviction

Mark Karpeles, the former CEO of the now-defunct Japanese Mt. Gox cryptocurrency exchange is appealing his conviction on data manipulation charges.

At its peak, Mt. Gox was the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world but came crashing down after a massive hack that saw customers lose nearly $500 million in digital assets.

Karpeles was recently acquitted by the Tokyo District Court on charges of embezzlement and breach of trust but was found guilty of data manipulation. He was given a suspended sentence and managed to avoid jail time. His prosecutors were gunning for a 10-year sentence.

The 33-year old is appealing the conviction because he believes that the judges did not consider all the arguments from his defense team.

In an email to the Japan Times, he said,

“I believe appealing to the judgment is appropriate so that I can be judged again in full consideration of all the facts.”

Karpeles, a French national who has spent considerable time in Japan, was arrested in 2015 and has been incarcerated for almost a year.

Japan: SBI and Ripple backed payment app lands 13 banks as investors

One of the largest financial groups in Japan, the SBI Group announced on March 28 that 13 local banks have invested in MoneyTap, a blockchain payment app co-developed by SBI and America’s Ripple, the company behind the XRP token.

SBI revealed in the press statement that Kiraboshi Bank, Hokuriku Bank, Shinsei Bank, and ten other financial firms have come onboard as shareholders.

MoneyTap utilizes Ripple’s xCurrent technology and is designed to facilitate fast money transfers using a mobile app. The startup is set to receive more financial backing from other Japanese based financial institutions in the later parts of the year.

MoneyTap was officially launched by SBI Group and Ripple in October last year.

Bitmain hopes lie in the next Bitcoin halving

Every four year or so, the block reward for mining Bitcoin is algorithmically cut into half. Known as Bitcoin halving, the next event is expected to happen in May 2020 and the ailing cryptocurrency mining giant Bitmain is pinning its hopes on this event.

The mining company which has gone through a bad spell hopes that Bitcoin halving will result in a surge in demand for its 7nm-chip miners which are not yet launched.

If history repeats itself, Bitcoin normally experiences a bull run in the run-up to the halving, which normally spurs interest from businesses and hobbyists. The company now hopes that its flagship miner which is expected to be released by the end of 2020 will emerge as the winner in the cryptocurrency mining sector.

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