World's first physical bitcoin store opens in HK

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong World's first physical bitcoin store opens in HK

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong World's first physical bitcoin store opens in HK

The world's first physical retail store selling the controversial virtual currency bitcoin has opened in Hong Kong.

The 40-square-meter shop, located in the western district of Sai Ying Pun and operated by Asia Nexgen Bitcoin Exchange, officially opened for business on Feb. 28. The local exchange holds a money service operator license from Hong Kong's customs and excise department.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority views bitcoin as a virtual commodity as opposed to a virtual currency, which therefore enables Asia Nexgen to accept payments to acquire bitcoin the commodity, not bitcoin the currency.

Customers must first provide an ID card and proof of address to comply with customs and excuse rules on money laundering before they can make a transaction at the store through their digital wallets.

The first customer to the store following the ribbon-cutting ceremony spent $HK100 (US$12.90) to purchase roughly 0.022 bitcoins, according to market rates listed on the US-based CoinBase exchange at the time.

Ken Lo, co-founder and CEO of Asia Nexgen, said the store could help raise the popularity of bitcoin. "The biggest issue people have right now is buying the bitcoin. People have to put money in, trade it through an exchange online," he said.

"Now, you walk into the store, hand over your cash and send the bitcoin to your digital wallet," he added.

The store opened on the same day that Japanese bitcoin exchange MtGox was forced to file for bankruptcy protection after claiming to have lost nearly half a billion dollars' worth of bitcoins in an alleged theft last Tuesday.

Lo said the MtGox debacle was only "a drop in the bucket" and that there is no "shortage of demand" for bitcoins at the moment.

Bitcoins were trading at around US$572 on Coinbase on Sunday.

Late last year, China's central bank stated that bitcoin was a digital currency and prohibited third-party payment processors from providing bitcoin transaction services.

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong World's first physical bitcoin store opens in HK

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