Technology

Booking Holdings pulls support for Facebook’s controversial cryptocurrency project

The parent company of Booking.com, Kayak and Agoda has pulled out of Facebook’s cryptocurrency project.

Booking Holdings, which is reportedly the only travel company among the more than two dozen founding members, has pulled out of The Libra Association, a cryptocurrency project spearheaded by Facebook.

Libra, which aims to be an open and inclusive global currency that allows users to make cross-border payments more easily, has reportedly faced intense scrutiny from regulators around the world.

Booking Holdings had reportedly viewed Libra as an element to enhance its payment systems.

Booking CEO Glenn Fogel told Skift Booking had been invited to be a founding member of Libra, which he referred to as an “alternative payment method” instead of cryptocurrency.

“We looked at what they were talking about, what they were thinking, and we said, yeah, we’d like to have a seat at the table as this develops,” Fogel told Skift. “We don’t know if it’s going to come off the ground or not.”

Fogel said there was a possibility that the Libra Association “will produce something that’s much more efficient for everyone involved”.

He said inefficiencies under the current financial system include credit card fees and fraud costs, adding: “If there is a way that is cheaper, quicker, just so much better, then we’d want to be part of it.”

Fogel said he’d only want Booking Holdings to participate in the endeavour if it were “safe” and “secure” with adequate privacy protections, according to Skift.

Regulators have warned that the cryptocurrency could be used by criminals if not properly monitored, Bloomberg reported, while lawmakers ridiculed Facebook’s track record at hearings in July with Libra co-founder David Marcus.

The exit of Booking Holdings came shortly before the Libra Association convened in Geneva on Monday to finalise its governing charter and initial membership.

The travel company, which generated some US$9.2 billion in revenue last financial year, joins Visa, Mastercard and software company Stripe in leaving the project.

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