China’s technology giants are playing down their links to non-fungible tokens amid investor concern that this booming area of the crypto universe may become the next target of regulators.
Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Ant Group Co.’s blockchain unit AntChain changed the name for NFTs on their platforms to “digital collectibles.” AntChain made the switch on Sept. 15, a person familiar with the matter said. It’s unclear when Tencent did the same.
Tencent and AntChain said their digital collectibles have no monetary attributes such as payment. They both don’t allow the resale of their NFTs for a profit, though local media reported that some of AntChain’s earlier products spurred speculative trades. AntChain requires owners to hold their NFTs for at least 180 days before they can be transferred for free to another party.
The moves boosted speculation the technology companies are getting ahead of another possible crackdown after the government this year banned all crypto-related transactions and vowed to stop illegal mining. While authorities haven’t called NFTs an illegal business, it’s a grey area in China where any player must tread carefully to avoid unwanted scrutiny. Both Ant and Tencent’s NFTs run on blockchains controlled by the two companies. Outside China, NFTs run on public protocols like Ethereum and are traded freely, and in some cases fetch millions of dollars.
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AntChain “firmly opposes price speculation around NFT products” and decided to use “a more accurate description” for its business in September, it said in a statement sent to Bloomberg. The company launched its first digital collectibles in June via a mini program called “Fan Grain” embedded in Ant’s Alipay app.
A Tencent spokesperson told Bloomberg that its digital collectible platform Huanhe, launched in August, prohibits the transfer of digital products between users. “We do not tolerate any illegal activities, including those related to crypto-currencies.”
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