NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exchange and clearing house operator Nasdaq Inc plans to develop several applications for blockchain, the technology underpinning the digital currency bitcoin, using its Estonian settling and clearing business, a senior Nasdaq executive said on Friday.

The blockchain is a shared distributed ledger that records and stores digital assets. Parties can use the mechanism to transfer those assets and proponents says its use could make it easier to keep track of information and reduce settlement times.

Nasdaq is on track to roll out the technology on its market for private companies, Nasdaq Private Market, later this year, helping firms keep track of the shares they issue and enabling them to almost instantaneously settle transactions, Nasdaq Co-President, Hans-Ole Jochumsen, said in an interview.

The New York-based company is also preparing plans to develop new blockchain applications in Estonia, where Nasdaq owns the Tallinn Stock Exchange, Estonia’s only regulated secondary securities market, as well as The Estonia Central Securities Depository (ECSD), he said.

The applications will focus on improving the proxy voting process for companies, as well as for company registration and public pension registration, which Nasdaq has a contract to manage with the government of the Baltic country of around 1.3 million.

“It’s a smaller country, so it’s not very complex in size, and there is a government that is very keen to use technology. They claim that they are in the forefront of using technology in the public center worldwide,” Jochumsen said of Estonia.

The ECSD administers share registers for all joint stock companies operating in Estonia, as well as all securities and pension accounts opened in the country. The register includes other electronic securities, such as private company shares, bonds, and securities transactions histories.

The ECSD also provides clearing and settlement services for securities trading, payments of corporate dividends and interest, and other securities-related services.

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Bill Rigby

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