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Crypto exchange Binance stops selling digital versions of stocks like Tesla as regulators circle

Crypto exchange Binance stops selling digital versions of stocks like Tesla as regulators circle

16 Jul 2021

The logo of cryptocurrency exchange Binance displayed on a smartphone with stock market percentages in the background.

Omar Marques | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

Binance will no longer offer digital versions of stocks like Tesla, Apple and Coinbase, as the cryptocurrency exchange faces growing pressure from regulators around the world.

The world’s top digital currency exchange by trading volume said in a blogpost Friday that it would end support for “stock tokens,” crypto assets tied to the value of certain shares.

Binance had offered the tokens through a partnership with CM-Equity AG, a licensed investment firm based in Germany. According to Binance, each token was fully backed by shares held by CM-Equity AG.

Binance said stock tokens were unavailable for purchase on its website, “effective immediately.” The company will cease support for any stock tokens after Oct. 14, and users may sell or hold them over the next 90 days.

European users will be able to move their holdings over to a new “portal” from CM-Equity AG roughly two to four weeks before Binance closes all positions on Oct. 15, Binance said.

The company said the decision was taken to “shift our commercial focus to other product offerings.”

“As the crypto ecosystem evolves, and as Binance grows as a company, we are continually evaluating our products and working with our partners to meet our users’ needs,” a Binance spokesperson told CNBC.

“We take our legal obligations very seriously and engage with regulators and law enforcement in a collaborative fashion. We don’t comment on specific matters or inquiries.”

In April, Germany’s financial watchdog warned investors that Binance had likely violated securities rules with the launch of its stock tokens, adding the company faced potential fines for not publishing investor prospectuses for the instruments.

Binance’s stock tokens let users buy a fraction of publicly traded companies’ shares without paying commission fees. Stocks on offer included Apple, Coinbase, Microsoft, MicroStrategy and Tesla. Prices were settled in the company’s own dollar-pegged stablecoin, Binance USD.

Binance has been facing a growing crackdown from regulators around the world. Last month, Britain’s markets watchdog barred the firm from carrying out regulated services in the country, while Italy’s securities regulator on Thursday said Binance was not authorized to provide investment services to Italians.

Regulators in Japan, Canada and Thailand have also issued warnings about Binance.

Last week, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao — known in the crypto industry as “CZ” — said his firm “still has a lot of room to grow” and that “compliance is a journey” in the nascent digital asset market.