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Chinese bitcoin exchange ends trading

AP, BEIJING

A man checks the price of bitcoin on a mobile phone app in Chongqing City, China, on Dec. 6, 2013.

Photo: AP

One of China’s biggest bitcoin exchanges said that it would end trading after news reports said regulators have ordered all Chinese exchanges to close, causing the price of the digital currency to plunge.

BTC China (比特幣中國) said on its Web site it will “stop all trading business” on Sept. 30.

The exchange said it was acting “in the spirit of” a People’s Bank of China ban last week on initial coin offerings, but gave no indication it received a direct order to close.

The Chinese central bank has not responded to questions about the currency’s future there.

There was no immediate word from other Chinese bitcoin exchanges about their plans.

Bitcoin’s value tumbled 15 percent on Thursday to about US$3,300. The famously volatile currency has shed about one-third of its value since Sept. 1, but is up from about US$600 a year ago.

Bitcoin surged in popularity in China last year as its price rose. Trading dwindled after regulators tightened controls and warned that the currency might be linked to fraud.

Two business newspapers on Thursday reported that regulators in Shanghai, the country’s financial center, gave verbal instructions to Chinese bitcoin exchanges to close.

Bitcoin is created and exchanged without the involvement of banks or governments.

Transactions allow anonymity, which has made bitcoin popular with people who want to conceal their activity.

Bitcoin can be converted to cash when deposited into accounts at prices set in online trading.

A Chinese business news magazine, Caixin, said that at one point, up to 90 percent of global trading took place in China.

The Chinese government’s clampdown on cryptocurrencies has not only sent bitcoin tumbling, it is also hitting the shares of related companies.

Hong Kong-listed PC Partner Group Ltd (柏能集團), which makes graphics cards used in bitcoin mining, has tumbled 27 percent since China’s central bank declared initial coin offerings illegal earlier this month.

Shenzhen-based Ysstech Info-tech Co (贏時勝信息技術) and Beijing’s Global Infotech Co (高偉達軟件) — which both have links to blockchain technology, the system that underpins bitcoin — have retreated at least 5 percent.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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