French ‘Tabac’ shops diversify, selling bitcoin for cash

© Reuters. A sticker of French startup Keplerk, indicating that clients can purchase bitcoins, is seen on a tobacco shop at Rueil-Malmaison© Reuters. A sticker of French startup Keplerk, indicating that clients can purchase bitcoins, is seen on a tobacco shop at Rueil-Malmaison

PARIS (Reuters) – As well as cigarettes, cigars, lottery tickets and the like, visitors to Paris Tabacs can now also buy bitcoins.

With the backing of French fintech group Keplerk, the crypto-currency has gone on sale in six tobacco shops in and around Paris.

Adil Zakhar, one of Keplerk’s co-founders, hopes to enrol up to 6,500 Tabacs by February.

“Some people find it complicated to get bitcoins on-line,” Zakhar said . “They trust their local tobacco shop owner more than they would trust some remote anonymous website.”

Late last year, Keplerk secured a contract with a local cash-register software provider to include an option for Tabac owners to sell vouchers redeemable for bitcoins in an electronic wallet that is held on Keplerk’s website.

Threatened by dwindling tobacco sales, France’s 24,000 licensed tobacco shops have diversified into products such as prepaid credit cards, cellphone credits and money transfer services.

Cyril Azria, 45, one of the first buyers on Tuesday, is a tech enthusiast.

“I’ll use the bitcoins to buy some computer material on the internet and the rest to speculate,” he said.

“It’s a good time to buy,” he said, after spending 150 euros on the crypto-currency.

has attracted a mix of investors, some convinced that it can reshape global finance and others attracted by rapid gains that pushed the value close to $20,000 in late 2017.

It has since lost three-quarters of its value, falling to $4,016 on Tuesday.

French regulators in November warned potential customers against buying crypto-currencies, saying the unregulated financial instrument is highly volatile.

However, they have not blocked Keplerk’s tabac plan.

Industry observers have criticized the retail initiative, saying it is cheaper and faster to buy bitcoin online.

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