Coinbase launches in more markets and plans 'aggressive' 2019 expansion

Key Points
  • Coinbase has expanded its product to Lithuania, Iceland, Andorra, Gibraltar, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
  • U.K. CEO Zeeshan Feroz said users can expect a "more aggressive approach" to Coinbase's global drive in 2019.
  • Feroz added Coinbase was "constantly exploring" the possibility of signing deals with banks and payment providers.
The Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange application seen on the screen of an iPhone.
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Coinbase has launched its cryptocurrency trading platform in more markets as the firm plans an "aggressive" international push next year.

The company said Thursday it had expanded its product to several European countries and overseas territories, including Lithuania, Iceland, Andorra, Gibraltar, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Zeeshan Feroz, Coinbase's U.K. CEO, said the firm looks for markets that are "close to or within jurisdictions that we operate in today" when it decides on new expansions. The company recently opened a new office in Dublin, as part of a contingency plan to continue to have access to the bloc post-Brexit.

Some of the markets Coinbase is expanding into are becoming increasingly popular destinations for cryptocurrency and blockchain-related start-ups.

Gibraltar, for instance, has a domestic licensing process for such firms to become registered blockchain technology providers. Iceland, meanwhile, has become a popular hub for so-called cryptocurrency mining — an electricity-intensive process that keeps the underlying blockchain network ticking — due to an abundance of renewable energy.

"I think you can expect a more aggressive approach to us adding more countries in the coming months," Feroz said. "Much of what we're doing here is driven by customer needs and what we're seeing in the market."

Crypto rout

Coinbase got a boost from a spike in bitcoin's price last year, which saw the cryptocurrency soar to a record high, close to $20,000. According to Recode, the company crossed $1 billion in revenue in 2017. Jonathan Meiri, CEO of data firm Superfly Insights, has said Coinbase made most of their 2017 revenue in December that year, when bitcoin hit its all-time high.

Coinbase CEO: Everybody is interested in digital currency these days
Coinbase CEO: Everybody is interested in digital currency these days

However, the cryptocurrency market was faced with a severe rout in the months that followed, and bitcoin has fallen nearly 80 percent since its record high. The world's most valuable virtual currency was trading above $4,000 on Thursday for the first time in two weeks.

"I think if you look at last year, a lot of the focus was on people who bought crypto from an investment point of view and a lot of projects raised a ludicrous amount of money as a result of that," Feroz said.

One of the big themes of 2017 was what's known as an initial coin offering (ICO), a controversial practice where start-ups make money selling new digital tokens. ICOs have since faced a crackdown led by the likes of China and South Korea, while many projects have collapsed in tandem with the downturn in cryptocurrency prices.

Feroz said he saw the narrative around cryptocurrencies "shifting from how much money you made last week" to "what these projects really mean."

Last month, Coinbase raised $300 million in a funding round that was led by Tiger Global Management, valuing the firm at $8 billion.

Earlier this month, the firm said it was mulling the addition of 30 new cryptocurrencies to its platform — including XRP, a token closely associated with blockchain firm Ripple, and the second-most valuable cryptocurrency, according to CoinMarketCap.

Banking partnerships

Earlier this year, Coinbase partnered with British bank Barclays to open a U.K. bank account. The move made it easier for customers to top up and withdraw money from their Coinbase account. Previously, U.K. users had their transactions processed through an Estonian bank, which could take several days.

Feroz said that Coinbase was "constantly exploring" the possibility of signing similar deals with other banks and payment providers as it continues to expand.

"We are certainly open to exploring ways of working with domestic banking partners and payment providers — whatever the dominant schemes are — to facilitate transactions for customers," he told CNBC.