DUBAI - OKX, one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, has been granted a regulatory licence in Dubai that will allow it to offer crypto services to retail clients, the company said on Tuesday.

Dubai's Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) has awarded OKX Middle East a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) licence for exchange services. When operational, it will enable OKX to provide spot services and spot-pairs services to qualified retail clients, as well as institutional customers.

The United Arab Emirates is pushing to become a global hub for the crypto industry. VARA was formed in March 2022 to regulate the emerging virtual asset sector in Dubai.

"We are looking at this as a game changer because we are able now to target both retail and institutional clients in the UAE and allow them to deposit and withdraw in their local currency," Rifad Mahasneh, OKX General Manager for the MENA region, told Reuters.

"We are working with VARA towards completing a few conditions before we can launch and we are working to do so over the next few weeks," he added.

According to VARA's public record of virtual asset service providers, OKX Middle East follows TOKO FZE and Trek Labs Ltd FZE in securing a licence for exchange services.

Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, was also granted a licence to conduct some operations in Dubai in 2022.

OKX is regulated in the Bahamas and currently does not allow customers from the United States to use its platform due to regulatory issues.

(Reporting by Federico Maccioni; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)