FTX Reportedly in Talks to Buy South Korean Exchange Bithumb

The exchange recently agreed to acquire troubled lender BlockFi and Canadian trading platform Bitvo


FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried | Blockworks exclusive art by axel rangel


key takeaways

  • Conversations about the acquisition have been ongoing for several months, according to Bloomberg
  • Founded in South Korea in 2014, Bithumb has grown to become one of South Korea’s “big four” cryptocurrency exchanges

Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX is looking to buy South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb, according to Bloomberg.

Acquisition talks have been ongoing for several months, a person familiar with the matter told the news outlet. There’s no word on Bithumb’s potential valuation.

The crypto bear market has given companies with larger cash reserves the perfect opportunity to acquire struggling competitors. FTX recently reached a deal to acquire troubled lender BlockFi for up to $240 million and agreed to purchase Bitvo and Embed Financial earlier in June. 

Alameda Research, another company founded by Bankman-Fried, also loaned $500 million to bankrupt crypto lender Voyager. Bankman-Fried is also Voyager’s single largest individual shareholder, holding 11% of the company. 

These moves further strengthen the rumor that Bankman-Fried is actively using the crypto market crash to assert his dominance in the industry.

Chris McCann, a general partner at early FTX investor Race Capital, told Bloomberg that Bankman-Fried is “not doing this out of the goodness of his own heart,” claiming that at this point “his ambitions knows no bounds.”

Founded in South Korea in 2014, Bithumb has grown to become one of South Korea’s “big four” cryptocurrency exchanges, alongside Upbit, Coinone and Korbit. Reports of Bithumb being up for sale have circulated since 2020, with the firm reportedly valued at 1.27 trillion won ($969 million) last year.

It currently handles about $560 million in daily trade volume, according to CoinGecko data.

Bithumb’s former chair Lee Jung-hoon was indicted in July last year after he allegedly swindled $100 million from the chair of BK Group, Kim Byung Gun. Bithumb was also among several South Korean crypto exchanges that were raided by local prosecutors last week, following investigations into TerraUSD’s collapse

An FTX spokesperson declined to comment. Bithumb did not respond to Blockworks’ request for comment by press time.

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