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Taiwanese merchant ready to accept bitcoins

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Wayi International Digital Entertainment (華義國際), a listed company that specializes in online gaming, announced yesterday that its online store would start taking bitcoins as a form of payment next year.

Wayi said its online store WMall Online will start accepting bitcoins. As such, the company is set to become the first company in Taiwan to accept the digital currency as a form of payment. Following the announcement, Wayi's stock price surged to NT$10.45 per share.

Wayi said that the company currently does not own any bitcoins. However, once the company starts accepting bitcoins next year, it would start accumulating this online currency. With a sufficient accumulation of bitcoins, Wayi would start selling bitcoins to the public, and the currency can be exchanged into New Taiwan dollars. There will be a 3-percent transaction fee for exchanges conducted through WMall, the company said.

The company will utilize bitcoin payment processor “bitpay” to verify the legitimacy of bitcoins transacted on its website.

Industry Unsure about Wayi's Future

While Wayi intends to turn itself into Taiwan's bitcoin exchange center, there are some analysts that doubt the benefits it will yield. The main reason is that there are few people who possess bitcoins in Taiwan. Also, there is a concern that the online currency is overpriced.

Wayi's revenue in November declined 4 percent month-on-month to NT$41.704 million. The November figure is also a 22-percent drop year-on-year. The company's revenue between January and November amounted to NT$590 million, which was a 15-percent drop compared with the same period last year.

Governments' Attitudes about Bitcoins

Introduced in 2009, the digital currency is traded online with the use of cryptography, and may also be converted into local currencies. With its increasing popularity, the value of bitcoins is now widely recognized. The government of Germany recognized bitcoins as a legitimate currency in August 2013, and granted its use in trades and tax payments.

The People's Bank of China, however, issued a notice on Dec. 5, warning against risks involved with bitcoin transactions. The notice stressed that bitcoins cannot be used in the market.

As Wayi prepares to become the first merchant in Taiwan to accept bitcoins, the spotlight is now on the central bank of Taiwan in regards to how it will deal with the new currency.

Central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) pointed out recently that bitcoins are not considered legal tender. It is not a currency that is universally accepted, except among certain groups, Perng said, adding that the central bank would closely monitor the currency's use in Taiwan.

Bitcoins Used in Illegal Transactions

In 2013 the FBI shut down the website Silk Road, which specialized in illegal drugs, whereupon the FBI took control of approximately 1.5 percent of all bitcoins in circulation.

Bitcoins are increasingly used as payment for legitimate products and services, and merchants have an incentive to accept the currency because transaction fees are lower than the 2 to 3 percent typically imposed by credit card processors. Notable vendors include OkCupid, Reddit, WordPress and Chinese Internet giant Baidu.

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