Argentine fintech Uala, which is backed by the likes of billionaires George Soros and Steve Cohen, ventured into crypto for the first time Friday, allowing customers to buy and sell Bitcoin and Ether with pesos through its app.
The move is another milestone for Ualá, which was valued at US$2.5 billion in its latest funding round. The company already provides a slew of financial services based on a prepaid card managed through a mobile app.
Ualá, which has more than five million users in Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, created its own company called Uanex to manage the new products, founder and CEO Pierpaolo Barbieri said in interview.
“Argentina is the best market to make this investment, given that it’s one of the region’s countries where the adoption is growing fastest,” Barbieri said.
About 4.5 million Ualá clients are in Argentina, he said.
Due to strict capital controls and soaring inflation that could reach 100 percent annually this year, Argentines have been early and enthusiastic adopters of cryptocurrency technologies. The South American country is ranked number 13 globally in crypto adoption, according to Chainalysis, a company specialised in blockchain analysis.
The company said in October that it plans to invest US$150 million across the region over 18 months and aims to break even in Argentina in 2023. Ualá expects to reach 25 million users in the next five years.
The crypto purchases and sales can be made with less than 250 pesos (US$1.50), and initially the products will be switched on for a small number of select users. The remaining clients will be progressively enabled if they register on the Ualá website. Currently, the Ualá app also offers the ability to invest in mutual funds, dollars and Cedears.
Ualá is also backed by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp. and Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., as well as early investors including Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Ribbit Capital and Monashees.
“Users asked us to invest in crypto through our app a long time ago,” Andrés Rodríguez Ledermann, Ualá’s Wealth Management VP, said in the interview.
by Ignacio Olivera Doll & Carolina Millan, Bloomberg
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