State-backed media have indicated there is high-level understanding in Beijing that the PRC needs to have its own centralized and controlled cryptocurrency that could be very similar to Facebook's Libra coin. Photo: iStock

Chinese giant Ping An is reportedly planning to list its OneConnect Fintech Unit. An initial public offering for the Hong Kong-based financial management portal could be valued at about $8 billion, according to reports in Bloomberg.

OneConnect, which runs numerous blockchain initiatives alongside a portfolio of FinTech projects and artificial intelligence, facial recognition and biometrics identification platforms, provides solutions for small and medium-sized banks. 

Bloomberg says the company currently works with 460 banks as well as more than 1,800 insurers, brokerages, fund managers and private-equity houses. The company raised $650 million series A financing that valued the company at $7.4 billion. The deal would be a high profile listing that would come in the midst of signs that the appetite for large listings is slowing in China.

In October 2018,  OneConnect delivered Hong Kong’s first blockchain-powered trade finance platform. Its eTradeConnect platform says it offers “real-time, secured and comprehensive trade information” for banks to conduct risk assessment on loans.

Platform founding members included ANZ, Bank of China, Bank of East Asia, DBS, Hang Seng Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank. Since its launch, other banks have joined, including the Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of Communications, BNP Paribas, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Shanghai Commercial Bank.

This week, OneConnect also announced it was commencing operations in Indonesia, where it will provide tech solutions to the local banking sector while also providing financial access to Asia’s “underbanked and unbanked.”

“These technologies will equip Indonesian banks and other financial institutions with end-to-end services that will increase their efficiencies, enhance risk-control capabilities, and cost reduction – which means local financial institutions [can] enhance their services and offerings,” said Hendra Tan, President Director of PT OneConnect Financial Technology Indonesia. This will bring “more financial access to a greater number of Indonesians.”

China retains a strict policy on the regulation of cryptocurrencies, which are essentially banned by the government, but at the same time has promoted domestic blockchain technologies across a range of financial, health, logistics and government services.

This, however, may be creating a set of unintended results, with the Associated Press reporting yesterday that Chinese internet users are turning to blockchain to fight against government censorship. Information blocked on Chinese social networking websites regarding, for example, sexual misconduct or fake vaccines, have been popping up on various blockchain networks.

China’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, is “alarmed” at the level of  “censorship resistance” that blockchain is enabling, writes Associated Press. In February the agency started demanding that blockchain users log onto platforms using full names, national ID card details or verified mobile phone numbers. Law enforcement agencies must also be allowed to access data posted to blockchains and service providers are required to remove “illegal information” quickly to stop it from spreading.

This last requirement is perhaps the most puzzling as it is commonly understood that the information stored on blockchains is immutable and thus cannot be removed.

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