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Value of Bitcoin slumps after steps taken by Chinese bank

SHANGHAI--Bitcoins were trading Wednesday at less than half their value at the end of last month after Chinese authorities took steps to rein in transactions in virtual currency, which had soared in recent months.

Prices on BTCChina, the country's biggest Bitcoin trading platform, stood at 3,060 yuan (US$504) each, down almost 60 percent from their high of 7,588 yuan in November.

Bitcoin, invented in the wake of the global financial crisis, is a form of cryptography-based e-money that offers a largely anonymous payment system.

Chinese speculators have poured money into it this year, driving the BTCChina price up 9,122 percent from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30 and making the country at times the world's biggest Bitcoin market.

But two weeks ago China's central bank ordered financial institutions not to provide Bitcoin-related services and products and cautioned against its potential use in money-laundering.

On Monday, it banned domestic third-party payment companies from providing clearing services for virtual currency trading platforms, according to a report in the China Business News.

Citing an unnamed source, it said the instruction was issued at a closed-door meeting.

A notice posted Wednesday on BTCChina's website to its “valued customers” said: “Due to new government regulations, BTCChina will temporarily suspend CNY (yuan) deposits.”

It added: “Rest assured that BTCChina will continue to operate normally. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience.”

Both BTCChina and another major Chinese exchange, OKCoin, have resumed charging investors transaction fees, according to notices on their respective websites, which said the move was intended to prevent speculation and price manipulation.

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