Japan’s largest bank to introduce own digital currency in fall 2017

  • Arrived late to the bitcoin party? Fret not, because 2017 might be your year. In a matter of weeks, the price of bitcoin has already soared by more than 30 percent—from around $450 in May to $690.41 on Tuesday with an estimated 15.66 million bitcoins in circulation. This is the highest value the digital currency has been since September 2014, when the cryptocurrency went on a free fall from its all-time highs of more than $1,000 per single bitcoin. Experts, like bitcoin entrepreneur Henry Brade, believes this is the best time to invest in the virtual currency,

    especially since the halving process—which reduces the amount of daily bitcoin created every day from 3,600 to 1,800—is due to start on July 10. Brade expects “the next six months or so” will be crucial for bitcoin as it starts “a new phase of massive price increase” by as much as 10 times.

    But what if you don’t want to shell out $700 for a bitcoin? Well, Japan may soon offer a cheaper alternative. Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reported the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. is gearing up to launch its own digital currency as early as autumn 2017. The virtual currency is called MUFG coin—short for the bank’s parent company, the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.

    Sources familiar with the matter told the newspaper that the cryptocurrency will help “facilitate currency conversions to foreign currencies and exchange” with the Japanese yen. One unit of MUFG coin will be equal to 1 yen, according to the publication, and users will be able to withdraw money from their bank accounts into a smartphone app. The money, in turn, will be converted to the cryptocurrency.

    The MUFG coin system is expected to draw in Japanese prepaid electronic money users, such as “Suica,” with its low commission fees for remittance. News that the bank was developing the MUFG coin surfaced in February, following a trial run that began in late 2015. Japan is one of the handful of countries that have taken a favorable stance towards digital currencies, such as bitcoin.

    Recently, the Japanese Diet enacted a bill that would regulate virtual currency exchanges and their operators in the country, as well as allow digital money to be used not only to buy goods and services but also as an alternative for legal tender through purchases and trades.

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