Binance deepens Middle East expansion with ‘in-principle’ Abu Dhabi approval; CEO says ‘more to come’

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Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said the company is “not shunned elsewhere” and that there’s “more to come.”
Wei Leng Tay | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has obtained a provisional green light from Abu Dhabi regulators, deepening its expansion in the Middle East.

The company said Sunday it was given approval “in principle” by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Abu Dhabi Global Market to operate as a broker-dealer in digital assets. The firm said the move is an initial step toward becoming a “fully-regulated virtual asset service provider” in the city.

It’s the second city Binance has secured approval from — the company received a crypto license in Dubai last month. The move also comes after Binance was authorized in Bahrain by the country’s central bank.

Binance has been pushing into the Middle East market after getting a frosty reception elsewhere.

In the U.K., regulators placed restrictions on the firm, barring it from undertaking any regulated activity. In Singapore, it limited its service after the country’s central bank warned it may be in violation of local payment laws.

In response to a tweet from CNBC, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said the company is “not shunned elsewhere” and that there’s “more to come.”

Previously, Binance was notorious for its tendency to operate independently of local regulations. The company’s chief up until recently took pride in having no official headquarters. However, in response to pressure from global regulators, Binance has changed tack, saying it wants to become a regulated business. The firm is currently evaluating where to establish its main office.

Several crypto companies, including Crypto.com and FTX, are looking to Gulf states like the UAE as a destination to set up shop. But the region is opening its doors to the loosely regulated world of crypto at an awkward time — the UAE was recently placed on a “gray list” by the Financial Action Task Force, a global money laundering watchdog.

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