Talks between South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb Korea and potential buyer NXC have made limited progress, raising speculation that the deal may end up being scrapped.
The two sides started discussions three months ago, according to industry sources. NXC, the holding company of game developer Nexon, is working with Deloitte Anjin, which also acted as financial advisor when it acquired another crypto exchange, Korbit, in 2017.
NXC reportedly is still very interested in buying Bithumb Korea, even though talks on the deal have gained little momentum. “NXC remains undeterred even after Bithumb raised the price tag as cryptocurrency prices soared last year,” said an industry insider.
Lee Jung-hoon, who chairs the boards of Bithumb Korea and Bithumb Holdings, is considered the most influential person in the company. His equity interest in Bithumb Holdings, which owns 75.99% of the crypto exchange, is unknown, but three shareholders that together own a majority stake in Bithumb Holdings are considered his allies.
Industry watchers said Lee might have wanted to sell the crypto exchange at first because of concerns about legal risks. Bithumb and Lee are currently under investigation for fraud related to the 2018 Blockchain Exchange Alliance (BXA) token sale.
It was stated at the time that BXA tokens would be listed on Bithumb once the exchange was acquired by BK Group chairman Byung-gun Kim. However, the acquisition deal fell through and the token was not listed on the Bithumb exchange, causing the price of the tokens to plummet and costing investors a significant amount of money.
“The court battle is still ongoing but now chances are increasing that Lee could be found not guilty,” said another industry insider. “This could probably make Lee rethink his decision to sell the exchange.”
Bithumb’s revenue is believed to have grown sharply last year as cryptocurrency prices surged and trading volume soared. This could be another reason that Lee might want to retain control of the company, industry watchers said. (Reporting by Byung-yoon Kim)