Wine Retailer to Buy Majority Stake in Japanese Bitcoin Exchange for $30M

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Wine Retailer to Buy Majority Stake in Japanese Bitcoin Exchange for $30M

Madison Holdings Group Ltd. has agreed to buy 67.2 percent of Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Bitocean for 1.68 billion yen ($15.12 million). Inclusive of fees, the wines and alcoholic beverages company will pay a total $30.12 million. According to local media reports, the deal is to be completed through a subsidiary, Madison Labs.

Acquisition to Diversify Operations and Expand Income Sources

Madison is an investment holding company popular for selling top-end French wines. The $546 million-valued company is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange’s Growth Enterprise Market (GEM), a junior segment of the bourse. The company also has interests in corporate finance activities, financial advisory services and asset management.

Bitocean is registered as a crypto exchange with Japan’s Financial Services Agency, but has not commenced trading yet. According to papers filed with GEM, sometime this month, Madison is buying the stake from “independent third parties,” in what management said was part of the company’s “diversification strategy.”

report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) also detailed plans by HDR Cadenza Management – a unit of HDR Global Trading, owners of crypto exchange Bitmex – to acquire a 51 percent stake in Madison Labs for $17.14 million. Both deals have yet to be closed. Raymond Ting Pang-wan, chairman of Madison, stated:

Our wine business is stable and profitable, but then it is small. It is hard to make wine trading into a very big business. This is why we have to diversify into financial technology and the cryptocurrency business – to achieve a better return for our shareholders. Virtual currencies and blockchain are getting more popular. Investing in the virtual currency sector will expand our income source.

Lured by Japan’s Robust Crypto Regulation

Pang-wan told SCMP that his company was not concerned about the current market slump, which has seen the price of bitcoin core (BTC) plummet by more than 80 percent from its December 2017 all-time-high of almost $20,000. “Bitcoin is cheap, which has created a good opportunity for us to enter the market. We are eyeing the long term, so we are not worried about short-term volatility,” he was quoted as saying.

He said the decision to enter Japan, which controls about a fifth of the global cryptocurrency trading total, was motivated by the existence of a comprehensive regulatory framework in the Pacific island nation. “We wanted to invest in a platform that was under proper regulation,” said Pang-wan.

Japan is building one of the strongest regulatory frameworks for the cryptocurrency industry, ostensibly to prevent cases of theft of investor funds. The $530 million Coincheck hack in January marked a crucial turning point in crypto regulation in the country. Today, Japan has the Virtual Currency Exchange Association, a self-regulatory body, while exchanges applying for a license with the Financial Services Authority have to go through a rigorous verification process.

According to the SCMP report, Gary Cheung Wai-kwok, chairman of the Hong Kong Securities Association, said:  “This is a small investment for the company (Madison), so it will not take too big a risk. It makes sense for the company to diversify its business to achieve higher income.”

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