Circle picks crypto-friendly France for European headquarters
Stablecoin giant Circle is planning to locate its European headquarters in Paris, citing the crypto-friendly climate created by President Emmanuel Macron’s government as instrumental to the decision.
The U.S. company will use Paris as a base to expand in the European Union, Circle Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Allaire said in an interview. It will build on Circle’s existing footprint in Dublin and London.
“Both for commercial and policy reasons, we believe that France is the right center for us as we look to scale this business in Europe,” Allaire said, saying Paris would become a base for its digital assets and for on-shoring its new product EUROC, a stablecoin that aims to be redeemable one-to-one with the euro.
The announcement of the new headquarters during Paris Blockchain Week comes at a challenging time for Circle. Its hallmark stablecoin product USD Coin lost its dollar value for several days this month after Circle revealed it had $3.3 billion in cash reserves for the token temporarily trapped at Silicon Valley Bank, which it now stores with Bank of New York Mellon.
Circle has filed an application with the French markets authority to be registered as a digital asset service provider, and with the banking authority to become a licensed electronic money institution, Allaire said.
Circle is the latest large crypto company to pick Paris as a European hub, after digital-asset exchanges Binance Holdings and Crypto.com made similar pledges in the last two years. French digital minister Jean-Noël Barrot said in an interview that Circle’s decision was the result of efforts “to make France a most attractive place” to develop cryptoassets and blockchain technologies.
France established a regulatory framework for crypto in 2019, with a simple registration process for companies. This required businesses to provide evidence of managers’ “good repute and skills” and establish anti-money laundering procedures. About 65 players have successfully registered so far, but after the collapse of crypto exchange FTX, the vetting process has been strengthened.
Companies entering the market from January 2024 will be required to publicly disclose pricing policies and risks of cryptoassets to clients, as well as the need to place customers’ deposits into separate accounts from those of the company. Meanwhile the EU’s Markets in Cryptoassets framework, which will enable firms to passport their registrations across the bloc, is set to come into force later in 2024.
The FTX scandal and global context have not toned down France’s effort to attract crypto investments, Barrot said. “There have been some recent developments in the field of crypto that validate the approach that we have, that Circle has, that you need sound regulation in order for this market to develop in a sustainable way,” he said.
The total circulation of Circle’s USDC declined around $8 billion so far in March to $35.6 billion on Tuesday, according to pricing data from CoinGecko, after reaching a peak of $44 billion prior to the recent bank closures.
Without commenting on a specific headcount in Paris, Allaire said Circle was making its first hires in the country, focusing on technical and financial roles. “So many financial industry companies have made Paris their home in a post-Brexit world,” he said.
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