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FTX Has ‘A Few Billion’ to Support Industry, Claims Head Sam Bankman-Fried

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By Reuters | Updated: 7 July 2022

Sam Bankman-Fried, head of one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, FTX, said he and his company still have a “few billion” on hand to shore up struggling firms that could further destabilise the digital asset industry, but that the worst of the liquidity crunch has likely passed.

Bankman-Fried, 30, who is from California but lives in the Bahamas where FTX is based, has become crypto’s white knight in recent weeks, throwing lifelines to digital asset platforms which have faltered as cryptocurrencies prices have cratered. Bitcoin is down around 70 percent from its all-time November high of nearly $69,000 (nearly Rs. 50 lakh).

“We’re starting to get a few more companies reaching out to us,” Bankman-Fried said in an interview. Those firms are generally not in dire situations, though some smaller crypto exchanges may still fail, he said, adding that the industry has moved beyond “other big shoes that have to drop.”

Bankman-Fried’s crypto-trading firm, Alameda Research, gave crypto-lender Voyager Digital a $200 million (nearly Rs. 1,600 crore) cash and stablecoin revolving credit facility, and a facility of Bitcoin, as the company faced losses from exposure to crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital. On Wednesday, Voyager filed for bankruptcy.

Also in June, FTX handed US cryptocurrency lender BlockFi a $250 million (nearly Rs. 2,000 crore) revolving credit facility and on Friday announced a deal giving FTX the right to purchase it based on certain performance triggers.

The goal of the bailouts was to protect customer assets and stop contagion from ricocheting through the system, Bankman-Fried said.

“Having trust with consumers that things will work as advertised is incredibly important and if broken is incredibly hard to get back,” he said.

In January, FTX unveiled FTX Ventures, a $2 billion (nearly Rs. 1,58,200 crore) venture capital fund focused on digital asset investments, which it has since drawn on to help bail out firms that are lacking liquidity, but not assets.

“It does get increasingly expensive with each one of these,” Bankman-Fried said, adding that the firm still had enough cash on hand to do a $2 billion deal if necessary.

“If all that mattered was one single event, we could get above a couple billion,” he said, stressing that isn’t his preference.

On one or two occasions, Bankman-Fried, who made billions arbitraging cryptocurrency prices in Asia beginning in 2017, said he has used his own cash to backstop failing crypto companies when it didn’t make sense for FTX to do so.

“FTX has shareholders and we have a duty to do reasonable things by them and I certainly feel more comfortable incinerating my own money,” he said.

Bankman-Fried also in May revealed he had personally taken a 7.6 percent stake in Robinhood Markets, capitalising on the trading app’s weakened share price.

Forbes pegged Bankman-Fried’s net worth this year at around $24 billion (nearly Rs. 1.9 lakh crore), but Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index in May said that figure has been cut in half due to the crypto crash.
CRYPTO WINTER

As the US Federal Reserve has begun aggressively hiking rates to combat hyperinflation, investors have fled the crypto markets.

The crash in cryptocurrency prices, referred to as “crypto winter,” may have bottomed, as prices have stabilised, but it will largely depend on the macro-economic situation, said Bankman-Fried, a 2014 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I don’t think it’s an existential threat to the industry, but I do think it is a fair bit worse that I would have anticipated,” Bankman-Fried said.

Bankman-Fried started his career in finance at quantitative trading firm Jane Street, then founded crypto trading firm Alameda Research and in 2019 set up FTX, which was valued in January at $32 billion (nearly Rs. 2.5 lakh crore).

He has said he plans to give away 99 percent of his wealth, and that he could spend up to $100 million (nearly Rs. 800 crore) supporting candidates in the 2024 election cycle, focusing on issues like pandemic prevention and bipartisanship.

While rival crypto exchanges face layoffs after earlier hiring sprees, FTX has around 300 employees, and Crunchbase pegs Alameda’s staff at fewer than 50.

“Every quarter this year, I expect our workforce to be bigger than the previous quarter, but we’re trying not to grow insanely quickly,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Bitcoin falls below $19,000 as cryptos creak under rate hike risk

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By: Reuters, Updated September 19, 2022

SINGAPORE, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Cryptocurrencies fell to fresh lows on Monday on regulatory concerns and as investors globally turned shy on risky assets with interest rate rises looming around the world.

Bitcoin , the biggest cryptocurrency by market value, fell about 5% to a three-month low of $18,387.

Ether , the second largest cryptocurrency, dropped 3% to a two-month low of $1,285 and is down more than 10% in the last 24 hours. Most other smaller tokens were deeper in the red.

The Ethereum blockchain, which underpins the ether token, had a major upgrade over the weekend called the Merge that changes the way transactions are processed and cuts energy use.

The token’s value has fallen amid some speculation that remarks last week from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler implied the new structure could attract extra regulation. Trades around the upgrade also were unwound.

“It’s speculation as to what might or might not happen,” said Matthew Dibb, COO of Singapore crypto platform Stack Funds, on the regulatory outlook.

“A lot of the hype has come out of the markets since the Merge,” he said. “It’s really been a sell-the-news type of event,” he added, given the nervous global backdrop, and said ether could test $950 in coming months.

“Looking at the landscape right now, both fundamentally and technically, it’s not looking great. There’s no immediate bullish catalyst that we can see that’s going to prop up these markets and bring in a whole lot of new money and liquidity.”

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Bitcoin once again slips below $20,000

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By: Reuters, September 18, 2022

Sept 18 (Reuters) – Bitcoin on Sunday dropped 1.54% to $19,804, slipping from the 20,000 mark after losing $310 from its previous close.

The world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency is down 58.9% from the year’s high of $48,234 on March 28.

Ether , the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, dropped 3.2 % to $1,422.1 on Sunday, losing $47 from its previous close.

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U.S. seizes $30 mln in crypto from North Korea-linked hackers

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By: Reuters, September 9, 2022

Sept 8 (Reuters) – The United States has seized over $30 million in cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean-linked hackers Lazarus from the popular online game Axie Infinity, crypto intelligence firm Chainalysis said on Thursday.

The company said in a blog post it played a role in the recovery with U.S. law enforcement and other crypto organizations, without naming them, in the first ever recovery of stolen cryptocurrency by a North Korea hacking group.

Chainalysis and North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The seizures represent about 10% of the total funds stolen in March from Ronin Network, a sidechain built for the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, Chainalysis said.

Ronin said in March hackers stole about $615 million in cryptocurrency.

“We estimate that so far in 2022, North Korea-linked groups have stolen approximately $1 billion of cryptocurrency from DeFi protocols,” Chainalysis said. He was referring to decentralized finance protocols, an umbrella term for financial services offered on public blockchains.

The U.S Department of Treasury in May sanctioned virtual currency mixer Blender, saying it was used in the laundering process for the Axie Infinity heist.

The Treasury Department in April also linked Lazarus to the attack.

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Crypto gaming firm Animoca Brands raises $110 million

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By: Reuters, September 8, 2022

LONDON, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Hong Kong-based blockchain gaming developer Animoca Brands has raised $110 million from investors, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

The company said the fund raising values the company “similar to its previous funding round” but did not specify its new valuation.

In July, Animoca said it had a valuation of around $5.5 billion. read more

(This story corrects paragraph 1 to read Hong Kong-based not Singapore)

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Binance to convert users’ USDC into its own stablecoin

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By: Reuters, September 6, 2022

Sept 5 (Reuters) – Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, said on Monday it is introducing “BUSD Auto-Conversion,” which will be used to convert any existing user balances and new deposits of USD Coin (USDC), Pax Dollar (USDP) and True USD (TUSD) into its own stablecoin.

The move is intended to enhance liquidity and capital efficiency for users, the company said in a statement.

Binance said it will remove and cease any trading on spot pairs that include USDC, USDP and TUSD; it will start the conversion on Sept. 29.

USDC, which is principally operated by Circle Internet Financial and is the second largest stablecoin, has a nearly $51.9 billion market capitalization. Binance’s stablecoin, BUSD, is valued at about $19.4 billion, according to crypto data provider CoinGecko.

USDC products affected include saving accounts, DeFi staking subscriptions and crypto loans, which will be closed and liquidated on Sept. 23.

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Crypto Exchange FTX Ordered to Halt ‘False and Misleading’ Claims by US Bank Regulator

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By Reuters | Updated: 20 August 2022

A US bank regulator ordered crypto exchange FTX on Friday to halt what it called “false and misleading” claims the exchange had made about whether funds at the company are insured by the government. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said a July tweet by Brett Harrison, head of FTX’s US operations, contained misleading claims that funds held at and stocks purchased through FTX were FDIC insured, and ordered the company to remove any misleading language from its social media accounts and websites.

In the tweet, which Harrison has since deleted, he stated that direct deposits from employers to the crypto exchange are “stored in individually FDIC-insured bank accounts” and that stocks purchased via FTX US “are held in FDIC-insured” brokerage accounts. The FDIC said in its cease and desist letter to FTX US that those statements implied that FDIC insurance was available for cryptocurrency and stock holdings, and that the agency does not insure brokerage accounts.

The order, one of five sent to crypto firms by the FDIC on Friday, comes as regulators have ramped up efforts to police crypto firms that may be misleading investors on whether their funds enjoy a government backstop. The issue has come to a head of late, as turmoil in the crypto market has led to stress and the collapse of some high profile firms.

The bank regulator issued a similar cease and desist letter to bankrupt crypto firm Voyager Digital, arguing that the company had misled customers by claiming their funds with Voyager would be covered by the FDIC. Later, the FDIC issued an advisory urging banks dealing with crypto companies to ensure that customers are aware of what types of assets are government-insured, particularly in cases where firms offer a mix of uninsured crypto products alongside insured bank deposit products.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

In a tweet on Friday, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried emphasised FTX is not FDIC-insured, and apologised if anyone misinterpreted previous comments.

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