Telegram may delay coin launch as SEC halts US sales

The popular messaging app sold rights to buy digital tokens

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 16, 2019 this illustration picture taken in Paris shows a smartphone showing the Telegram app logo. US securities regulators won an emergency court order October 11, 2019 to block the messaging application Telegram Group from raising funds by selling unregistered cryptocurrency to investors. / AFP / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT
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Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app with about 300 million users, may postpone plans to launch its own cryptocurrency after the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a restraining order to stop the sale of the tokens in the US.

The company, which raised more than $1.7 billion last year for its project, told investors it's evaluating ways to resolve the agency's concerns, including potentially delaying the issuance of the tokens beyond its October 31 target date, according to a note sent to investors and seen by Bloomberg.

Investors bought rights for Grams — the digital coins — at a steep discount, with the opportunity to resell them at a “reference price” of $3.62, almost three times the maximum cost of the rights, according to the SEC complaint.

The agency said that the fund-raising was illegal in the US because Telegram never registered its offering with the regulator, according to a filing made public on October 11. Telegram, which has a base in Dubai Media City, raised more than $425 million from US investors.

The company told investors that it has been in talks with the US regulator for the past 18 months regarding its project.

"We were surprised and disappointed that the SEC chose to file the lawsuit under these circumstances," the letter said. Telegram didn't respond to Bloomberg's request for comment.

The SEC has had long-standing concerns regarding the industry. The regulator has proven to be a major obstacle for the digital token market in the past, preventing many firms looking to sell tokens from making ground in the US.