Square jumps after receiving New York virtual-currency license

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Square Inc. shares climbed to their highest price ever after New York granted the company a virtual-currency license, letting customers in the state buy and sell Bitcoin.

Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said earlier this year that the company would introduce Bitcoin trading to almost all users of Square Cash, which allows people to transfer money to friends and family. Bitcoin trading has helped fuel growth for the app, which had more than 7 million monthly active customers in December. The New York State Department of Financial Services said Monday it had approved a virtual currency license for the company.

“Square and the NYDFS share a vision of empowering people with greater access to the financial system and today’s news is an important step in realizing that goal,” said Brian Grassadonia, the head of Square Cash.

Shares climbed about 1.2 percent to $65.26 at 12:36 p.m. in New York, after earlier reaching as high as $65.74. The stock has surged more than 80 percent since the start of the year, driven by optimism for cryptocurrency trading and growth in iSquare’s main operations that provide payments and e-commerce services to small and medium-sized businesses.

The market for Bitcoin trading platforms is becoming more competitive led by Coinbase, the largest U.S. marketplace for trading cryptocurrencies. Jeff Cantwell, an analyst at Guggenheim, wrote in a note to clients that Square’s payments app could eventually turn into a “ Coinbase-like exchange.”

In most states, digital-currency firms only need a money-transmission license to operate, but New York State also requires a BitLicense. Critics have said the state’s system is overly burdensome and expensive, and has driven innovation elsewhere as a result. The DFS has approved only nine firms for virtual currency charters or licenses, including Coinbase Inc., Circle Internet Financial and Genesis Global Trading Inc.

Bloomberg News
Bitcoin Compliance Mobile point-of-sale Square New York