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FACTBOX-Bitcoin's journey towards the mainstream

Feb 15 (Reuters) - Bitcoin, the world’s first and most famous cryptocurrency, has shot to record highs as it gains legitimacy as an asset.

Much of those gains have been fuelled by interest from big U.S. institutions.

Here are some steps from big companies, large investors, banks and payment processors that have shifted bitcoin closer to the mainstream in recent months:

INVESTMENT

May 2020:

* Fund manager Paul Tudor Jones makes the case for bitcoin as a store of value.

Aug. 2020:

* Michael Saylor-led business software firm MicroStrategy announces purchase of 21,454 bitcoins for $250 million, the first of several investments in the cryptocurrency.

Nov. 2020:

* Billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller and BlackRock fixed-income chief Rick Rieder make positive public comments about bitcoin as a gold alternative.

Jan. 2021:

* Investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co says bitcoin could hit $146,000 if it becomes an established safe-haven.

* Weekly flows into crypto funds and products hit a record $1.3 billion and total investment scales a new peak of $34.4 billion, according to asset manager CoinShares.

Feb. 2021:

* Carmaker Tesla Inc announces it bought $1.5 billion in bitcoin and says it will soon accept the cryptocurrency as payment for its vehicles.

* Bitcoin owners now include 169-year-old insurer MassMutual, asset manager Galaxy Digital Holdings, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s payments firm Square, Canadian software company Snapper and coin miners Marathon and Argo.

ACCEPTANCE

July 2020:

* U.S. banking regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, says national banks and federal savings associations may provide cryptocurrency custody services

Oct. 2020:

* Payments processor PayPal allows customers to hold bitcoin in their digital wallets and use it to shop at the 26 million merchants on its network.

Feb. 2021:

* Mastercard discloses plans to support cryptocurrency payments across its network.

* BNY Mellon announces a new unit aimed at helping clients trade and own cryptocurrencies and other digital assets.

* Toronto-based asset manager Purpose Investments launches the world’s first bitcoin exchange-traded fund.

* The parent company of Japan’s biggest online brokerage, SBI, says it plans a crypto joint-venture with foreign financial firms.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook Editing by Vidya Ranganathan and Sriraj Kalluvila

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