The deal to acquire a controlling stake in Bithumb, South Korea’s market-leading crypto exchange, is not yet done – with another gaming giant wading into what could develop into a bidding war for the trading platform.
Per ZDNet Korea, NCSoft, a South Korean video game developer known for its Lineage series of gaming titles, has submitted a rival bid of around USD 596m for almost 66% of the shares in the trading platform, owned almost exclusively by troubled Bithumb executive Lee Jung-hoon, the largest shareholder in the holding company Bithumb Holdings as well as another firm named DAA, which has a 30+% stake in the exchange.
The news broke on January 8, after widespread reports of an all-but-done deal with another South Korean gaming behemoth, Nexon. The latter is part of a business empire that also comprises the crypto exchanges Korbit and Bitstamp.
NCSoft’s alleged bid comes much closer to Lee’s asking price, but the same media outlet has not ruled out the possibility of a second bid from Nexon. Multiple reports from South Korea yesterday stated that Nexon’s bid was much lower, at just USD 458m.
A video equipment-making firm named Vidente owns the remaining 34% of the shares and was not thought to be looking for a buyer. But a report from the Korea Times claimed that Vidente has distanced itself from the Nexon bid, and has not ruled out making a rival bid of its own for the platform, quoting Vidente as stating,
“We have yet to decide whether to sell our stake in Bithumb Holdings or to acquire an additional stake.”
A Nexon spokesperson declined to “discuss Nexon’s investment strategy” when contacted by Cryptonews.com. Bithumb did not respond to our request for comment.
The ZDNet Korea report’s author added that a third, equally high-profile party had also expressed concrete interest, namely the crypto exchange giant Huobi, which already operates the Huobi Korea trading platform. However, it is understood that Lee would prefer to avoid selling to an overseas buyer, and intends to sell to a domestic player.
The same media outlet hinted that NCSoft may be going out on a limb with its Bithumb bid, as its declared cash assets amount to around USD 1.465bn.
However, a domestic blockchain business expert yesterday stated that the price was already “discounted,” and stated that a sub-USD 500 million deal for Bithumb would be a “remarkable coup” considering the rude health of the crypto market.
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