So a Miami judge has ruled that the digital currency bitcoin is not money in a money laundering case. The accused launderer was charged for selling $1,500 worth of bitcoins to undercover agents for use in buying stolen credit cards. There is mixed reactions to the ruling. The defendant, of course, is glad of the court victory but prosecutors are worried the judge set a precedent that would embolden criminals to wash dirty money with bitcoins.
Some 3,000 miles away in Suisun City, California, executives of WPCS International Inc. (Nasdaq: WPCS) received the news with keen interest. It may be odd since the company does not charge customers bitcoins for designing and building communications infrastructure and doing specialty construction, its main business. But the case and the ruling matter because WPCS owns BTX Trader LLC, which runs an online platform where bitcoins can be traded in multiple digital currency exchanges worldwide. The judge left bitcoin trading untouched making it business as usual for BTX Trader. WPCS is rated as a Strong Buy
BTX Trader’s Platform
The BTX Trader’s platform of the same name connects users to 14 bitcoin exchanges worldwide to retrieve market data and other users’ trade activity as well as to place trades. It has a built-in wallet called Celery that allows U.S. residents to buy bitcoin or dogecoin, another cryptocurrency, via direct bank transfers. BTX Traders earns from transaction fees from users. It also sells the wallet for the bitcoin equivalent of $99, $49.99 or $99.99.
WPCS’ traditional revenue sources are from low voltage communication and security contracting services. The company designs wireless networks and provides technology integration to create wireless communication systems, including WiFi networks, post-to-point systems, mesh networks, microwave systems, cellular networks, in-building systems and two-way communications systems. WPCS provides services mainly to the public services, health care and energy sectors.
The latest quarterly earnings report in March showed that operations in Suisun generated $286,000 in income for the fiscal 2016 third quarter and $886,000 for the nine months ended Jan. 31, 2016. The company’s only debt is a $150,000 vehicle loan and more than 96 percent of its $7 million assets are current assets.
With the recognition and use of bitcoin for paying goods and services growing, WPCS saw the opportunity of propping up revenues and attracting more investors by acquiring BTX Trader LLC in 2013. WPCS shares rose by a dollar from $1.51 to $2.53 before settling at $2 when the acquisition was announced in December that year. A share of WPCS is worth $1.52 as of July 26.
Shareholders were made aware of the many risks of the foray in the digital currency industry. One is the slowdown in the development of the Bitcoin network and reduction in the use of the digital money. There is also risk from the regulatory environment. The European Union is pushing for government access to bitcoin databases, identities of users of the virtual currency and users’ wallet addresses by next year to prevent terrorists from using bitcoins to fund their attacks. Such regulation could discourage bitcoin investment, though it is a recognition of the digital currency. There are also competing bitcoin trading platforms. But BTX Trader and WPCS welcome anything that heightens trading volumes of bitcoins.
The retail industry is slow in adopting virtual currency as a payment mode. Speculation is said to be the main driver of bitcoin trading. Risk-conscious investors can test the virtual currency as a go-to asset without being a trader or miner (those who record bitcoin transactions to earn bitcoins) themselves. WPCS is one such avenue.
Although the contractor belongs to a different industry, running a bitcoin service is not unusual for a company that is unrelated to financial services and retail. A mining company had ventured into bitcoin mining while a game developer is allowing players to pay in bitcoin to play. WPCS, through BTX Trader, plans to develop more bitcoin services as it serves its traditional customers.