June 6 (Reuters) - Trading platform Robinhood Markets said on Thursday it has agreed to buy cryptocurrency exchange Bitstamp for around $200 million in cash, speeding up a broader push into digital assets with its biggest ever deal.

The 11-year old trading app, popular among retail traders, has been looking to expand its product offerings to mature into a full-fledged financial services provider.

The acquisition of Bitstamp, which was founded in 2011 and holds 50 active licenses and registrations globally, puts Robinhood in direct competition with industry giants such as Binance and Coinbase.

Bitstamp will power the growth of Robinhood Crypto and is set to become its first institutional business. Bitstamp's core spot exchange, popular in Europe and Asia, has over 85 tradable assets and includes products like staking and lending.

"We are in our early days in the EU and we are excited to keep expanding there and beyond. The acquisition of Bitstamp will accelerate our global expansion," Johann Kerbrat, Vice President and General Manager of Robinhood Crypto, told Reuters.

The deal, which is expected to close in the first half of 2025, comes at a time when Robinhood's crypto business is seeing rapid growth but also facing regulatory hurdles in the U.S.

Kerbrat said the company intends to keep communicating with regulators as it moves forward.

Robinhood's crypto business was the driving force behind a massive first-quarter earnings beat in May, but that same week, it had also disclosed that it received a 'Wells' notice from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The notice signals possible upcoming enforcement action.

The markets regulator has argued that crypto tokens should be considered securities and subject to its registration rules. Crypto firms, on the other hand, have accused the SEC of overreach.

Robinhood's stock has surged 69% this year after it vowed to chase 'profitable growth'. Analysts expect it is primed for more gains amid a resurgence of retail trading and increasing crypto adoption. (Reporting by Manya Saini in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)