Kraken, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world, gained approval to operate in Abu Dhabi on Monday. The exchange joins a widespread push into the Middle East, amid growing crypto adoption in the region.
The move was revealed in an announcement by Abu Dhabi’s market registration authority. The exchange is the first to receive a license to operate a regulated, digital asset exchange from the Abu Dhabi Global Market financial centre, the regulator said.
The move comes amid increased efforts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to become the next crypto capital. Abu Dhabi had in 2018 passed crypto-friendly regulation, inviting ventures by several major crypto players.
Kraken sets up Middle East HQ in Abu Dhabi
Kraken, which has over 9 million users globally, set up its Middle East headquarters in Abu Dhabi, the markets regulator said.
The exchange received all the required clearances from Abu Dhabi’s financial regulator, and will “soon” allow investors to trade crypto directly in UAE Dirham.
Curtis Ting, Managing Director of EMEA at Kraken lauded the UAE for having crypto-friendly laws, and said the exchange plans to expand further in the Middle East and North Africa region “in the months and years ahead.”
Kraken’s approval also beats out that of world’s largest crypto exchange Binance, which only holds an in-principle license to operate in Abu Dhabi.
UAE attracts crypto investors
But both Binance and Kraken recently secured licenses to operate in Dubai, another major financial hub in the UAE. The city had also recently passed crypto-friendly laws to attract more investment.
Binance established its global headquarters in Dubai. It is also among the few exchanges recently authorized to operate in Bahrain.
World no.2 crypto exchange FTX recently gained a license to operate in Dubai, and plans to set up its regional headquarters in the city. Smaller exchanges Bybit and Crypto.com also both recently gained licenses to operate in Dubai.
The UAE is ranked third in crypto adoption in the Middle East, behind Turkey and Lebanon, according to a 2021 report by blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.
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