Coinbase Lists Controversial Cryptocurrency XRP, Price Jumps 10%

February 25, 2019, 6:47 PM UTC

Coinbase plans to add XRP, one of the world’s most controversial cryptocurrencies, to the list of virtual coins traded on its exchange, the company said Monday.

XRP is a digital asset tied to a blockchain ledger that’s used for cross-border payments. The virtual coin has provoked controversy for its tangled history with Ripple, a startup that owns the vast majority of XRP—a stockpile worth billions of dollars—in reserve.

Coinbase is evidently no longer waiting for regulators to decide whether XRP qualifies as an unregistered security before offering it to the public. XRP skeptics have long noted that authorities such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission could bring a hammer down on Ripple and other sellers of cryptocurrency.

Coinbase’s acquisition of a broker-dealer license last year may provide the company some regulatory cover should the SEC decide to get tough, a source familiar with Coinbase’s decision told Fortune.

The move is the latest manifestation of Coinbase’s shifting market strategy, which comes amid pressure from foreign rivals like Binance, a younger competitor that has risen to become the industry’s biggest by trading volume. In adding XRP, Coinbase may be pushing the envelope and ditching its longtime cautious, wait-and-see approach.

In an apparent attempt to avoid market manipulation, Coinbase said it would roll out the XRP listing in phases, beginning with a 12-hour period where it is accepting inbound XRP deposits. After that, the company said it would begin to fulfill orders and execute trades.

Rumors have long swirled that Coinbase would list on XRP eventually, a belief floated by bullish investors who liked to point out that Coinbase and Ripple share a major investor in Andreessen Horowitz, a prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Coinbase said it would list XRP first in Canada, the UK, Singapore, various European Union member nations, and the U.S., excluding New York. In response to the news, XRP’s price jumped 10% to $0.33 by mid-afternoon.

“One of the most common requests we receive from customers is to be able to trade more assets on our platform,” Coinbase wrote in a blog post announcing the news. “[W]e anticipate supporting more assets that meet our standards over time.”

Coinbase rose last year to become the highest valued cryptocurrency venture in the U.S. in spite of crashing enthusiasm in the cryptocurrency market. Tiger Global Management led its most recent round of venture capital funding at a private valuation exceeding $8 billion.