First Mover: Huobi Takes On OKEx in Futures, Opening New Front in ‘Chinese’ Rivalry

First Mover: Huobi Takes On OKEx in Futures, Opening New Front in ‘Chinese’ Rivalry

Terracotta warriors, Lintong County, China (Daniel Palmer/CoinDesk, modified by CoinDesk)

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Cryptocurrency exchange Huobi is taking aim at competitor OKEx in the business of trading futures and other derivatives contracts, opening up a new front in a longstanding rivalry between the Chinese-led exchanges. 

OKEx, which is led by Chinese executives and based in Malta, is the world’s biggest crypto derivatives exchange, with outstanding contracts valued at $1.26 billion, according to the data site CoinGecko. Huobi, also led by Chinese brass but based in Singapore, is close behind, tied for second place with another exchange, BitMEX, at $1.25 billion. 

In a  this month, Huobi said it has “managed to push new boundaries against other well-established exchanges when it comes to futures trading volume.” Huobi is already beating OKEx in a few market segments, according to the report, including “” – where traders can post their initial down payment, known as margin, using cryptocurrencies. Huobi claims to also regularly beat OKEx in weekly and quarterly bitcoin futures contracts.

“Before Huobi launched its futures contract in December 2018, OKEx had the largest market share of the world,” Ciara Sun, vice president of Huobi Global Markets, told CoinDesk in a Telegram message. “Huobi Futures always looks up to the best of the market.” 

The battle for supremacy in cryptocurrency futures – and China – adds to the tension between the two exchanges, which have been at loggerheads at least since 2018, when then-OKEx CEO Chris Lee  to Huobi to become vice president of global business development.

OKEx CEO Jay Hao, in , called Huobi “our doppelgänger,” insisted “imitation was the sincerest form of flattery” and said he “would like to think that Huobi was able to withstand this market volatility by following our footsteps.”

Experts on China’s often-murky cryptocurrency markets say the rivalry between the two exchanges likely stems from the fight for customers in the world’s second-largest economy. 

“There’s a natural friction between OKEx and Huobi,” Matthew Graham, chief executive officer of Beijing-based crypto consultancy Sino Global Capital, told CoinDesk in an email. “While they have both pushed to enlarge their international footprints, they still prioritize their Chinese user base.” 

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