Rumors appear to be hotting up as rival players – including the likes of Deutsche Bank, Visa, Binance and the search engine operator Naver – have reportedly held talks about buying minority or controlling stakes (or possibly even taking over) Bithumb, South Korea’s biggest crypto exchange.
As previously reported, a deal with the domestic gaming giant Nexon (also the owner of the Korbit and Bitstamp crypto exchanges) was thought to be “all but done” back in January after Bithumb’s biggest shareholder Lee Jung-hoon put his stake in the company up for sale last year, as confirmed toCryptonews.com.
But last week new developments emerged, with a number of leading South Korean media outlets claiming the Nexon deal had stalled, in a possible disagreement over liability in the case of hacking incidents.
Morgan Stanley was reported to have tabled a bid, and was allegedly seeking to do a deal with Vidente, a publicly listed domestic video equipment-making firm that owns at least 10% of Bithumb’s shares.
However, in a further development, Maeil Kyungjae, South Korea’s leading business newspaper claimed over the weekend that its (unnamed) sources in the investment banking sector had told it that Deutsche Bank, Visa, Binance and Naver – the nation’s answer to Google – had all expressed an interest. Cryptonews.com has contacted the mentioned companies for comment. Morgan Stanley, Bithumb did not respond to our requests for comment.
The media outlet claimed that Naver officials have met with Vidente representatives to discuss a possible deal. As a minority shareholder, many insiders claim that Vidente is entitled to preferred bidder status in any sale, potentially making its role key.
The video hardware company’s shares rocketed up by almost 11% on the KOSPI index when markets opened in Asia, although the price has since retracted to over 2%, per official data.
However, the media outlet claims that competition is becoming increasingly intense for the crypto exchange, whose trading volumes have soared in recent months following the return of South Korean crypto trading “fever.”
Maeil Kyungjae claims Bithumb’s market valuation could climb as high as USD 2.7bn.
Naver is the founder and 50% owner of the chat app service Line, which has successfully launched an e-pay service in Japan. This e-pay platform has since been linked to Line’s crypto wallet and exchange platform, and Maeil Kyungjae suggested that Naver – which already operates the popular Naver Pay e-pay platform in South Korea – could seek to make a similar move if it is successful with its Bithumb move.
Per Fn News, Bithumb’s informal market valuation is now around USD 1.8bn, despite an asking price of less than half that amount quoted by media outlets last year.
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