Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Baidu Inc., China’s top search engine, stopped accepting Bitcoins after China’s central bank barred financial institutions from handling transactions, triggering a drop in the virtual currency’s value.
Bitcoin is down about 20 percent at 5,647 yuan on BTC China, the most-active online exchange where the digital money is traded for China’s currency.
Baidu is no longer accepting Bitcoins after a subsidiary started accepting the digital money on Oct. 14. as the virtual currency gained popularity in China, fueling a global rally. The price of Bitcoins topped $1,000 last week, while two months ago it was at $138 on Bitstamp, an active online exchange. The rally began losing steam after the People’s Bank of China said this week that Bitcoin isn’t a currency with “real meaning” and doesn’t have the same legal status.
“Baidu’s website-acceleration platform decided to suspend Bitcoin payment acceptance from Friday as recent large fluctuations in Bitcoin’s value makes it unable to safeguard users’ interests,” the company said in a statement on its website today.
The decision was made following the Chinese government’s announcement, the statement said.
The Chinese central bank said the public is free to participate in Internet transactions provided they take on the risk themselves. The bank’s ban on financial institutions handling Bitcoin transactions reflects concern about the risk the digital currency may pose to China’s capital controls and financial stability after a surge in trading this year made the country the world’s biggest trader of Bitcoin, according to exchange operator BTC China.
--Editors: Reed Stevenson, Ben Livesey