Financial services firms in the Middle East, Europe and Asia continue to build on cryptocurrencies' ability to facilitate domestic and cross-border payment transactions. According to reports, the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) central bank and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority are collaborating to issue a cryptocurrency that will be used exclusively by banks for transactions between the two countries. In Germany, cryptocurrency payments startup Bitwala and German fintech startup solarisBank are reportedly launching a banking system that enables users to manage bitcoin and euro deposits in one place, with the same services, safety and convenience of a traditional German bank account. In Asia, Coinone Transfer, a subsidiary of Coinone, recently introduced Cross, South Korea's first blockchain-based remittance app and web service, which can be used regardless of whether the user has a bank account. Cross is enabled by RippleNet, blockchain technology from U.S. startup Ripple, and is being launched with support from the Siam Commercial Bank in Thailand and Cebuana Lhuillier in the Philippines. The UAE Exchange and Ripple announced plans to launch another cross-border remittance service in Asia by the first quarter of 2019.

On the domestic front, Amplify Exchange has announced plans to open U.S. operations in Knoxville, Tennessee. Amplify Exchange reportedly operates on a decentralized internet system enabled by its sister company, Substratum, and allows users to access the internet privately and irrespective of certain government use restrictions. Also reflecting a premium on privacy, Mastercard recently applied for a patent on a system that obfuscates the point of origin and amount of certain cryptocurrency transactions. In other payments news, U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, following a recent valuation of $4 billion, is reportedly preparing for an initial private offering targeted to high-net-worth investors.

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