MOSCOW, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Russian lender TCS Group Holding
has bought Swiss crypto services company Aximetria from
venture capital firm Digital Horizon, the companies said on
Wednesday, as the bank steps up its international expansion.
TCS, which runs Russia's largest online bank Tinkoff, has
seen its customer base surge to more than 18 million, aided by
an influx of retail investors during the COVID-19 pandemic. TCS
also owns a stake in the SPB Exchange, Russia's second-largest
bourse, and runs the country's most popular broker.
TCS said Aximetria would be developed as part of Tinkoff
Group's international expansion and that details of the deal
would be disclosed in its annual accounts.
Founded by Russians in 2018 and headquartered in Zug,
Aximetria provides digital asset services for private clients.
The Bell, an online news outlet that first reported the
deal, said TCS's stake in Aximetria may amount to 83.2%, citing
two financial market sources and documents from Aximetria.
On its website, Aximetria described itself as a part of TCS
Group Holding's international infrastructure.
London-based Digital Horizon, which last year sold a
controlling stake in blockchain trade finance platform Factorin
to Russia's largest mobile operator MTS for 867 million
roubles ($11.6 million), said it could not disclose transaction
BCS Global Markets said the likely small transaction size
meant the Aximetria deal was not so significant, but noted there
was lots of interest from retail investors in crypto assets,
where Tinkoff is a strong player.
Russia has argued for years against cryptocurrencies, saying
they could be used in money laundering or to finance terrorism.
It eventually gave them legal status in 2020 but banned their
use as a means of payment.
Reuters last month cited sources as saying the central bank
sees risks to financial stability from the rising number of
crypto transactions and advocates a "complete rejection" of
TCS is launching in the Philippines and has earmarked up to
$200 million on a South East Asia expansion drive. In November,
it said it would spend 20% of capital it raises on international
expansion. It has also incorporated Tinkoff Global PTE in
($1 = 74.5025 roubles)
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Elena Fabrichnaya
Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)