Madison says its decision to buy BitOcean was influenced by Japan’s pro-crypto stance and comprehensive regulatory framework. Photo: iStock

Investments into crypto opportunities are still coming thick and fast despite the grim market conditions this year. This is especially true in Asia, which houses some of the largest crypto and blockchain firms in the world.

Madison Holdings Group, a Hong Kong stock exchange listed wine company, has made plans to buy a stake in a Japanese crypto-currency trading platform. BitOcean is one of the 16 fully licensed crypto exchanges that have gained formal approval from Japan’s Financial Services Agency.

Madison Lab, a subsidiary company, has filed to acquire 67.2% of the crypto exchange for about $15 million with an additional $15 million in various fees, according to the SCMP. Wine and crypto is a strange combination, but Madison chairman Raymond Ting Pang-wan said it was part of their diversification strategy.

“Our wine business is stable and profitable, but then it is small. It is hard to make wine trading into a very big business,” he said. “This is why we have to diversify into financial technology and the crypto-currency business – to achieve a better return for our shareholders.”

In a related deal, HDR Global Trading, which owns the Hong Kong-based BitMEX crypto exchange, is reportedly considering buying a 51% stake in Madison Labs for about US$17 million. Neither deals had been finalized at the time of writing.

The decision to buy BitOcean was influenced by Japan’s pro-crypto stance and comprehensive regulatory framework. “Japan represents about 20% of Bitcoin trading worldwide. Japan and the US are the only two markets that have a licensing system for such trading platforms. We wanted to invest in a platform that was under proper regulation,” Ting added.

Hong Kong has yet to introduce official licenses for crypto companies, but has said it would develop a ‘sandbox’ for firms to test out software for regulatory purposes.

Diversification seems to have appeal to a growing number of companies in the region. The chairman of the Hong Kong Securities Association, Gary Cheung Wai-kwok, told the SCMP that this was not a big investment for Madison when compared to its market capitalization – which is about $535 million – and, as such, would not bring “too big a risk.”

The move comes as crypto-currency markets are at the lowest levels for more than a year. Market optimists say this could be an incentive for investment as this “crypto winter” will, next year, be replaced by a digital spring. Others are not so confident.