HTX’s Huobi shelves Hong Kong license plan, halts operations

abdelaziz Fathi

The Hong Kong affiliate of cryptocurrency exchange HTX, formerly known as Huobi Global, has withdrawn its application for a license to operate a virtual asset trading platform (VATP) in the city for the second time.

Justin Sun

The move mandates the closure of its operations in compliance with local regulations, according to the SFC website.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) removed HBGL Hong Kong from the list of cryptocurrency exchange license applicants on Tuesday following the firm’s decision to withdraw its application for its platform, Huobi HK. HBGL first submitted its application on February 20 before withdrawing it on February 23. The company resubmitted an application on February 26, just days before Hong Kong’s February 29 deadline for crypto exchanges seeking legal operation in the city.

Huobi HK has not publicly disclosed the reason for its latest withdrawal or whether it was instructed by the SFC to do so. Regardless, HBGL must cease operating its exchange in the city within three months as per regulatory requirements.

Crypto entrepreneur and HTX advisor Justin Sun announced last year that the exchange planned to obtain a license in Hong Kong. HTX, founded in Beijing in 2013, is the world’s sixth-largest crypto exchange by 24-hour trading volume.

Under Hong Kong’s new virtual asset regime, the SFC may issue a notice to a firm if it does not qualify for a “deeming arrangement,” which allows a platform to be considered licensed from June 1 while it awaits full approval. Firms that do not qualify must shut down by May 31 or within three months of being notified by the SFC, whichever is later.

HTX’s affiliate HBGL is independently managed and operated, separate from HTX’s direct management and operations, according to public statements from the company.

HTX is the second major cryptocurrency exchange originally from mainland China to encounter difficulties in obtaining a Hong Kong licence under the new scheme, which has proven costly and requires extensive compliance measures. Last month, HKVAEX, a local firm backed by the world’s largest crypto exchange Binance, also withdrew its Hong Kong licence application and announced its shutdown three months after applying.

Currently, there are 20 applicants for Hong Kong’s VATP licence, including notable names such as OKX, Crypto.com, Bybit, and Bullish.

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