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Litecoin jumps 30% as traders bet on more users, upcoming split into litecoin cash

CNBC logo CNBC 2/14/2018 Evelyn Cheng

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Litecoin surged Wednesday after news that a payments processor for the cryptocurrency is set to launch February 26.

The cryptocurrency jumped 36.8 percent to $218.23 Wednesday and was trading near $207 as of 3:15 p.m., ET, according to CoinMarketCap. Litecoin remained about 11 percent lower for the year so far.

LitePay, which says it's based in San Francisco, tweeted late Monday that "infrastructure for LTC [will launch] February 26."

Coinbase, the leading U.S. marketplace for major cryptocurrencies, also announced Wednesday afternoon New York time that it has launched a new service that lets merchants accept bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum and litecoin payments.

Litecoin seven-day performance

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Source: CoinMarketCap

LitePay CEO Kenneth S. Asare said in an email to CNBC Wednesday that on Feb. 26, 41 countries including the U.S., UK, China, Japan and Germany "will have access to LitePay merchant payment processing." He also said that the Litecoin Foundation, a Singapore-registered non-profit for advancing litecoin, is an investor in LitePay.

Asare said his team has been working on LitePay's development since the summer of 2017. "Our goal is to create a way for merchants to earn Litecoin, which is a particularly good crypto currency for payments," Asare said.

Litecoin is the fifth-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, according to CoinMarketCap. The coin split off from bitcoin in an effort to increase transaction speeds and was released in October 2011 by Charlie Lee, a former employee of Coinbase and Google. Lee said in December he "sold and donated" nearly all his litecoin holdings.

Iqbal Gandham, UK managing director at eToro, also attributed part of litecoin's gains Wednesday to a fork, or split in two, scheduled for Sunday. The split will give every holder of litecoin 10 coins of "litecoin cash."

"With the fork in litecoin cash it seems to help miners use their equipment more efficiently," Gandham said, noting the new coin does not appear to have significant transactional advantages over the original coin.

Founder Lee has called the plan to split litecoin a "scam" not supported by the original litecoin team.

A representative for Litecoin Cash did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

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