Some initial coin offering (ICO) issuers have decided to raise funds from overseas markets due to lower advisory fees and sluggishness in the domestic fund-raising process for ICOs, says a blockchain expert.

Karndee Leopairote, chief executive of Icora Consultant, said the process of launching ICOs in Thailand’s digital asset market is lethargic and no ICO portals have received an authorised operating licence so far.

Such tepid development has prompted some ICO projects to raise funds in overseas markets instead, Ms Karndee said.

Thailand is one of the first countries to establish regulations to supervise digital asset investment.

The royal decree on digital assets has been effective since May 14. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is tasked with regulating ICOs and other digital asset businesses, including digital exchanges as well as brokers and dealers involved with digital asset transactions.

The Finance Ministry has the authority to issue operating licences for businesses seeking to operate digital asset businesses.

Earlier, SEC secretary-general Rapee Sucharitakul said a certified ICO portal was likely to emerge last month, with the first authorised ICO offering possibly occurring this month.

The six businesses seeking licences to operate as digital asset exchanges are Bitcoin Co (bx.in.th), Bitkub Online Co Ltd (bitkub.com), Cash2Coins Co Ltd (cash2coins.com), Satang Corporation Co Ltd (tdax.com), Coin Asset Co Ltd (coinasset.co.th) and Southeast Asia Digital Exchange Co Ltd (seadex.io).

The two businesses seeking licences to operate as digital asset dealers are Coins TH Co (coins.co.th) and Digital Coin Co Ltd (thaiwm.com).

“There are many ICO projects waiting to raise funds on the Thai market, as there is a perception that the domestic digital asset trade is governed under the digital asset royal decree, where there are clauses for investor protection,” Ms Karndee said. “We are willing to comply with the digital asset royal decree, but we cannot force ICO issuers to raise funds only in the domestic market. They have taken an opportunity to raise funds abroad due to a quicker fund-raising procedure and cheaper advisory fees.

“With careful consideration by the SEC, [approving operating licences] will take time.”

In addition to the lengthy ICO fund-raising process in Thailand, the high cost of financial adviser fees and swift changes in market conditions and new technologies are other reasons that some companies have decided to raise funds from ICOs abroad, she said.

“The fund-raising process for ICOs is similar to that for IPOs,” Ms Karndee said.

ICOs in Thailand have problems related to demand and supply, she said.

“Local investors are not ready to invest in this kind of asset,” she said. “Investment information does not cover this investor group.”

Meanwhile, there are many issuers interested in securities token offerings (STOs), and it is suggested that the SEC should consider supervising STOs under the digital asset royal decree, Ms Karndee said.

STOs are digital tokens backed by real assets such as gold or real estate.

STOs are another kind of digital asset that could be governed under the digital asset royal decree, she said.

STO is a term coined in a jurisdiction where people are debating whether a particular token is a security, said Pariya Techamuanvivit, director for corporate affairs at the SEC.

If an issuer decides to treat tokens as securities, the sale of tokens must follow securities law, Mr Pariya said.

Depending on their design, some digital tokens might be considered securities and fall under the Securities and Exchange Act, he said.

“If an issuer wants to offer tokens in Thailand and the design of the tokens does not fall under securities law, the digital asset regime may be used,” Mr Pariya said. “If it falls under stocks or bonds, then the issuer might not be able to offer the tokens as there may be regulatory obstacles that need to be fixed. The SEC is looking into this.”

If an STO issuer is a registered company overseas and launches an STO outside of Thailand with no intention to solicit investors in Thailand, the SEC’s regulations will not be applied, he said.

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