The company that introduced Bitcoin automated teller machines (ATMs) in Canada is now looking to bring its kiosks to Hong Kong and possibly Taiwan.
Robocoin Technologies said it could have its first ATM in Hong Kong by end-January, reported South China Morning Post which cited the company's CEO Jordan Kelley. It added that no regulatory approval was required from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) to do so.
Noting that there was limited information available on the company's actual plans, the regulator said in the report: "It appears the proposed machine is another channel for acquiring Bitcoin or a vending machine. Bitcoin is not regulated by the HKMA. Bitcoin is not a currency, but a virtual commodity."
Robocoin unveiled its first Bitcoin ATM last October, roping in Vancouver-based Bitcoiniacs as one of its first customers with an order for five sets of the US$20,000 kiosks. The ATM allows users to buy, sell, or redeem Bitcoins, accepting cash or credit card as payment for the virtual currency.
HKMA further noted that local laws prohibit theft, fraud, and money laundering associated with Bitcoin, which it added did not have any formal backing and did not meet the criteria necessary to be a means of payment or electronic currency.
The authority said it was monitoring the usage of Bitcoin as well as other regulatory efforts globally to consider further action in Hong Kong.
Although a TechCrunch report said Robocoin also had Taiwan in its sights, the Taiwanese Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) said it would prevent any installation of the ATM. A report by local wire Central News Agency quoted a statement by the FSC: "Bitcoin is not a currency. Financial institutions and the public shouldn't use it as medium of payment. Given Bitcoin's non-currency status, no bank deposits should be made with it, and banks are not allowed to receive or provide Bitcoins.
"To install Bitcoin ATMs would require approval from FSC, which will not be given, so it is impossible for a Bitcoin ATM to come to or appear in Taiwan," it said.
In its interview with Robocoin, TechCrunch said the company had sold 50 machines and 52 percent of its customers were first-time Bitcoin users who generated a Bitcoin wallet using the ATM.
Kelly said in the report: "Bitcoin demand in Asia is amazing. We have many Asian countries seeking to enhance consumer capability to buy and sell Bitcoin securely and safely."
Despite the apparent market interest, People's Bank of China last month outlawed Bitcoin transactions among local banks and financial institutions, pointing to the high risks of money laundering and potential association with illegal activities. Noting that the virtual currency was "limited" by its anonymity and lack of a central monetary controller, the central Chinese bank said it issued an advisory to all banks and financial institutions in the country, forbidding them from handling any Bitcoin transactions.
One Bitcoin is currently worth US$938.8, though its value had fluctuated greatly between US$500 and US$1,200 over the past month.