JAN 30, 2024
First spot bitcoin ETF filed in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is gearing up for the potential approval and implementation of both bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and stablecoin regulations in 2024, with further progress achieved through the first filing of a spot bitcoin ETF in the Chinese autonomous territory.
Harvest Fund files
Harvest Fund (HFM), a major asset manager based in China, has taken the lead by filing for a spot bitcoin ETF with the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFA), as reported by Tencent News.
While details on the Harvest Fund bitcoin ETF remain limited, the company is hoping for its debut on or after the Lunar New Year holiday, which lands on Feb. 10. Reports suggest that Hong Kong’s regulatory body may follow a path similar to the U.S. SEC, approving multiple spot bitcoin ETF applications to ensure fair market access. Although Harvest Fund was the first to apply, other regional financial institutions have expressed interest in launching similar products within the year.
Livio Weng, Chief Operating Officer of crypto exchange HashKey, revealed that approximately ten asset management firms are developing spot crypto ETFs for Hong Kong, with applications already submitted to the Hong Kong Securities Regulatory Commission. Earlier this month, Venture Smart Financial Holdings (VSFG) announced its plan to launch a spot bitcoin ETF within the first quarter of this year, contributing to the growing momentum.
In tandem with the push for spot crypto ETFs, there is a rising interest in stablecoins. Multiple Hong Kong companies, including Harvest Global Investments, RD Technologies and VSFG, are reportedly engaging in discussions with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) about potential stablecoin trials. These trials aim to explore use cases ahead of anticipated stablecoin regulations in Hong Kong.
The HKMA’s December consultation paper outlined licensing requirements for fiat-pegged stablecoins, positioning them as a bridge between traditional finance and crypto markets. Sean Lee, senior advisor and head of stablecoin at VSFG, told The Block that it is committed to applying for sandbox inclusion, along with consortium partners, to showcase the potential of programmable digital money while meeting prudential requirements.
An HKMA spokesperson confirmed ongoing preparations for the imminent launch of the stablecoin sandbox arrangement. The key criterion for applicants is a demonstrated commitment to a reasonable plan for issuing fiat-reference stablecoins (FRS) in Hong Kong. FRS refers to fiat-reference stablecoins pegged to the value of a fiat currency and backed by a government-issued currency, aligning with the most common stablecoin model.
Eddie Yue, CEO of the HKMA, highlighted the potential of stablecoins, stating they could serve as the interface between traditional finance and the virtual asset market. The parallel development of spot crypto ETFs and stablecoin regulations underscores Hong Kong’s commitment to fostering digital assets while ensuring investor protection through effective market oversight. Crypto ETFs offer expanded access, while stablecoin trials enable controlled experimentation, establishing gateways between traditional finance and the emerging crypto sectors.