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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's BitGold, a startup that runs an online payments and savings platform based on the precious metal, plans to go public in Toronto next week and will seek a listing in Asia in six to 12 months, the company's chief executive said.
"We felt there was this compelling opportunity to build a financial service that had virtually no counterparty risk because it only held gold," Chief Executive Roy Sebag said in an interview on Wednesday.
"It quickly became clear that what we wanted to build was a global internet platform," Sebag said. "We thought the real opportunity was broadening access to gold."
Users registered on Toronto-based BitGold's platform can deposit gold into vaults using a range of payment methods such as a credit cards and bitcoin.
The service acts as a savings account with gold as the currency. BitGold's clients can also spend their gold or earn gold by sending an invoice to someone for services.
The company has arrangements with Brinks Company to have access to vaults in Toronto, London, Zürich, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong. Users are also able to redeem gold and have it shipped home.
BitGold expects to list on the Toronto Venture Exchange on May 13, under the ticker symbol “XAU”, Sebag said. It would seek to list later in Hong Kong or Singapore.
Sebag, a hedge fund manager who founded the company with former Goldman Sachs metals strategist Josh Crumb, said they hit upon the idea as the financial crisis unfolded and resulted in loose monetary policy.
Before the website went live this week, about 30,000 users had pre-registered and it has users in about 50 countries, he said.
Investors include Soros Brothers Investments, Sprott Inc, PowerOne Capital Markets and Sandstorm Gold. Soros Brothers owns 6 percent of the company, Sebag said.
BitGold’s investment banks are Dundee Capital Markets, GMP Securities, Canaccord Genuity and Clarus Securities.
Earlier this year, BitGold raised C$7.5 million in cash, with an additional C$5 million in warrants that could be further exercised, giving the company a valuation of C$50 million, Sebag said.
Additional reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Grant McCool