Dhaka, Bangladesh
Asia driving Bitcoin craze?

Off the track

Asia driving Bitcoin craze?

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Singapore, the industrial complex looks like an underground ghetto. But this, says Dexter Ng, is the workshop of the future. A self-professed cryptocurrency entrepreneur, he’s the chief technology officer of SG Mining - a business making and selling rigs. These are the powerful computers that solve complex mathematical problems in a process that earns their owners digital currencies such as Bitcoin. “Previously we could only sell two or three of these rigs a week,” he tells me as we walk around the cemented warehouse. “Now we can sell hundreds.” Some of these machines go abroad, including Japan. Getting hard data on just how many Japanese investors have bought into the digital currency is difficult, because there’s no central body that oversees it. But Japan was the first Asian country to recognise Bitcoin and has built trust by fully legalising cryptocurrencies. Recently a Japanese firm announced that it would start paying a portion of its employees salaries in Bitcoin. Australia is another country in the region that has embraced the cryptocurrency, but now is moving to regulate it because of the way amateur investors are piling into the market. So is it fair to say Asia is driving the Bitcoin craze? At one point Chinese investors reportedly made up at least 80% of Bitcoin ownership, but Beijing is now being cautious. Worried about the outflow of funds into the market, China effectively banned cryptocurrencies by outlawing initial coin offerings, or ICOs, which are basically public share offerings that are invested in via the use of digital currencies. And it’s not alone. Vietnam banned Bitcoin and other digital currencies. India and Indonesia are considering regulation. And just this week, Singapore has changed it’s previously moderate tone on cryptocurrencies to one of extreme caution - warning its citizens about the “significant” risks they take on if they choose to invest in them. But that hasn’t stopped investors here from trying their luck. At a Bitcoin exchange in Singapore, I meet a group of enthusiasts who each put in about $100 (£75) a week to buy the digital currency. “It is the currency of the future,” one man tells me, refusing to divulge his name because he didn’t want his employer to know he was buying Bitcoin. “If you say this is a scam, then didn’t the financial crisis teach us that all financial institutions are scams anyway?”

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