Crypto exchange Bybit on Monday said it will open its global headquarters in Dubai and crypto platform Crypto.com said it would establish a regional hub there, the latest moves in the UAE's drive to become a centre for the virtual asset sector.
Dubai, one of the UAE's seven emirates and the region's trade hub, this month issued its first law governing virtual assets and formed the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA) to oversee the sector.
"Bybit has received in-principle approval to conduct a full spectrum of virtual assets business in Dubai," the company said in a statement, adding that the headquarters is expected to commence operations in April.
Dubai this month granted virtual asset licences to Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, and FTX Europe, a subsidiary of one of the largest crypto exchanges FTX. FTX will set up a regional headquarters in the city.
Crypto.com, a major crypto exchange based in Singapore, in a statement said it wanted to establish a significant presence in the UAE and would be launching a substantial recruitment drive in coming months.
The UAE has been pushing to develop the virtual asset sector and regulation to attract new forms of business as regional economic competition heats up.
Helal Al Marri, Director General of Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism, told an investment conference in Dubai on Monday that the UAE aspires to become a global capital for virtual assets and other sectors like the metaverse.
"We see the talent movement coming here, we see major corporates, banks, other multinationals that are starting to tiptoe into the space, choosing the UAE as their home to do that," he said.
Internationally, regulators worry about how a meltdown in cryptoassets – markets which are highly volatile and still opaque – would feed into the wider financial sector.
Gaps in data about cryptoassets make it difficult to assess their full use and many investors don't fully understand what they are buying, the Financial Stability Board, a risk monitoring watchdog for the G20 economies, said in February.