Bitcoin is building a loyalist following in Norway’s industrial heartland, as one of the country’s richest people embraces the ever-controversial cryptocurrency.
Kjell Inge Rokke, who started out as a fisherman to build a roughly $5 billion fortune in Norway’s offshore industry, has already revealed his belief that Bitcoin will be “on the right side of history.” Now Aker ASA, Rokke’s industrial investment company, says it’s open to the idea of accepting payment in the cryptocurrency.
“We’re curious about this technology,” Oyvind Eriksen, who’s been chief executive of Aker for more than a decade, said in an interview. That includes understanding how Bitcoin, and the blockchain it’s based on, “will change behavior patterns and the markets we are in.”
Eriksen says Aker, which owns oil producer Aker BP and has more recently branched out into green technology and renewable energy, isn’t reconfiguring its payments system just yet, but “things happen very quickly here,” Eriksen said. “I’m no stranger” to the idea of receiving payment in Bitcoin, he said.
The comments represent a small leap of faith in Norway, where the governor of the central bank has lambasted Bitcoin. In an interview earlier this year, Governor Oystein Olsen called it “far too resource-intensive, far too costly and most importantly, it doesn’t preserve stability.” Concerns over the carbon footprint of Bitcoin mining this week prompted Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk -- a former fan of the cryptocurrency -- to turn his back on it.
But Aker says Musk’s latest comments “haven’t changed anything.”
Not If, When
Rokke, who owns almost 70% of Aker through his holding companies, says Bitcoin’s entry into the mainstream economy is inevitable. “The question is not if, but when,” he said in a letter to shareholders earlier this year. So Aker needs to “keep up with the times,” he said.
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