(Bloomberg) -- The international arm of Chinese asset manager Harvest Fund Management Co. may get approval from Hong Kong as soon as this month to launch a spot-Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, people familiar with the matter said.

The pending green light is the second part of a two-step process for Harvest Global Investments Ltd. to list an ETF in the city that directly invests in Bitcoin, the people said, asking not to be identified as the plan is not public.

On Tuesday, the Securities & Futures Commission permitted Harvest Global Investments to provide virtual-asset related fund management services. The SFC’s website shows the Hong Kong unit of China Asset Management also received such an approval on the same day.

Harvest Global Investments and China Asset Management declined to comment on whether the permissions were the first step to starting spot-Bitcoin ETFs. The SFC declined to comment.

Hong Kong is vying with the likes of Singapore and Dubai to create a digital-asset center, part of efforts to restore its reputation as a modern financial hub following a crackdown on dissent that curbed its allure for foreign workers.

Spot-crypto ETFs, meanwhile, are in the spotlight after Bitcoin funds began trading in the US in January. They have amassed about $58 billion in assets, one of the most successful launches ever for a new fund category. The demand helped lift the largest digital asset to a record $73,798 in mid-March.

The launch of spot-Bitcoin funds in Hong Kong “could be imminent,” said Bloomberg Intelligence ETF analyst Rebecca Sin. Bitcoin’s bull run — the token is up fourfold since the start of 2023 — is a tailwind for net flows, and global Bitcoin ETF assets could soon hit $100 billion, she added.

Hong Kong allows futures-based crypto ETFs and three have listed so far: CSOP Bitcoin Futures, CSOP Ether Futures and Samsung Bitcoin Futures. They have combined assets of about $170 million.

Samsung Asset Management previously said it wouldn’t “eliminate the possibility of exploring to launch a spot ETF.” CSOP Asset Management has said that it’s looking into it.

On Thursday, HashKey Capital Ltd. said it had received an SFC license upgrade enabling it to manage virtual-asset investment products targeted at retail investors.

Reuters earlier reported that Hong Kong is likely to approve a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund next week, and launch the ETFs this month.

--With assistance from Kiuyan Wong and Annabelle Droulers.

(Updates with an SFC approval for HashKey Capital in the penultimate paragraph.)

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