Sber, Russia's largest retail bank, has applied for a license with the country's central bank to issue its own digital token for corporate clients.
The digital asset will be available for the companies banking with Sber, which have been expressing interest for blockchain-based deals for some time, a spokesperson from the bank told CoinDesk via email.
"This stablecoin will allow companies to use smart contracts on Sber's platform based on the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain. Tokenizing both material goods and fiat money on this platform will allow transactions to be fully automatic," the Sber press office said.
The digital token will not be a cryptocurrency, but instead "a tokenized form of the rubles the companies hold on their Sber accounts," they said. "Just like money on a bank account, but running on a different tech infrastructure."
Sber Deputy Chairman Anatoly Popov told the Interfax news agency on Friday that bank applied to register its blockchain platform with the Bank of Russia at the beginning of this month. According to Russia's law on digital assets, which came into force Jan. 1, 2021, all centralized issuers of digital assets in Russia must register with the regulator.
According to Popov, the registration process takes up to 45 days, after which Sber expects to receive either approval or comments and requests from the central bank. If the projects gets the green light, it's expected to launch some time this spring. One possible challenge might be the lack of clarity regarding taxation of digital assets in Russia, he said – detailed regulation for which is yet to be passed.
Sber launched its Hyperledger Fabric-powered blockchain platform last summer and aired plans to launch its own digital token at the time. The bank has been consistently active in the blockchain space, participating in a number of pilots involving securities on a blockchain.
Russia passed its first law regulating digital tokens last fall, detailing the criteria and regulation process for companies that want to issue digital assets for the Russian market. It also mentions cryptocurrencies that have no entity controlling them, like bitcoin, which are recognized as property, are subject to taxation and can't be used to pay for goods and services.
Non-qualified investors in Russia can not purchase more than 600,000 rubles (about $7,740) worth of digital assets in one year, according to a Bank of Russia directive issued in December.
Sber, recently rebranded from Sberbank, is the first Russian mainstream company that has publicly announced an application for a digital asset registration with the central bank. The Bank of Russia itself has been exploring the possibility of launching a Russian ruble-backed central bank digital currency (CBDC), the digital ruble.
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