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Mexican Senate passes fintech law

MEXICO CITY, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Mexico's Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would regulate its fast-growing financial technology sector, including crowdfunding and cryptocurrency firms, paving the way for a vote by the lower house.

The bill, which seeks to promote financial stability and defend against money laundering and financing of extremists, is expected to pass in a final lower house vote by Dec. 15, said three sources familiar with the measure.

If it is approved, the finer details would be hashed out in so-called secondary laws.

The new measures will allow Mexico to join a small but growing list of countries, including the United States and Britain, that have sought to regulate fintech firms.

Financial services firms see major potential growth in Latin America's No. 2 economy by reaching the more than 50 percent of Mexico's roughly 120 million citizens without bank accounts.

The bill aims to set out clear rules and reduce costs to users. That should drive competition in a sector that includes crowd-funders and payment firms, it says.

The bill also proposes measures to regulate firms operating with virtual currencies like bitcoin. The central bank would be tasked with refereeing such operations.

Felipe Vallejo, director of public and regulatory policy at Bitso, an exchange platform for cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, said that the bill brings Mexico in line with other countries.

"For us it was a victory for the sector, because this is being done internationally," Vallejo said.

Chicago-based CME Group, manager of the largest derivatives and futures market in the world, said last week that it will start offering bitcoin derivatives, and Nasdaq Inc. plans to launch a bitcoin-based futures contract next year. (Reporting by Sheky Espejo; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Kim Coghill)