Bankman-Fried Warns: Some Crypto Exchanges Already “Secretly Insolvent”

fter throwing lifelines to troubled digital currency platforms BlockFi and Voyager Digital, Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old billionaire founder of FTX, warns that some crypto exchanges will soon fail. The question on everybody’s mind in the crypto world is whether we’ve reached the market bottom. Nearly $2 trillion in crypto market value has evaporated since November.

Two bellwether digital assets Luna, a $40 billion crypto asset associated with TerraUSD, a $16 billion stablecoin designed to maintain parity with the U.S. dollar, have collapsed. Earlier this month bitcoin traded for below $20,000, its lowest level since December 2020. But the fallout is far from complete. Earlier this month, Singapore-based Three Arrows Capital (3AC), a highly levered crypto trading firm with $200 million of exposure to Luna revealed that it was nearly insolvent.

Three Arrows’ had borrowed large sums from numerous crypto firms including New Jersey’s Voyager Digital and New York-based BlockFi. In order to survive Three Arrows default, the two digital asset exchanges turned to billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of FTX and the richest person in crypto, worth some $20.5 billion. Between FTX and his quantitative trading firm Alameda, he provided the companies with $750 million in credit lines.

There is no guarantee that Bankman-Fried will recoup his investment. “You know, we’re willing to do a somewhat bad deal here, if that’s what it takes to sort of stabilize things and protect customers,” he says. We’re willing to do a somewhat bad deal here, if that’s what it takes to sort of stabilize things.”

Bankman-Fried’s cash infusions are far from altruistic. He has emerged as a smart vulture capitalist in the beleaguered crypto market, knowing full well that his own fortune depends on its healthy rebound and growth. Bankman-Fried has also bought into crypto brokerage Robinhood, where FTX has already accumulated a 7.6% stake, and is rumored to be considering an acquisition.

Bankman-Fried denies any active merger talks with Robinhood but tells Forbes that more crypto exchange failures are coming. “There are some third-tier exchanges that are already secretly insolvent,” says Bankman-Fried. Fried’s FTX, along with Coinbase, Kraken and Binance, are giants among digital asset exchanges. They have millions of customer accounts and functionally they operate similarly to online stock brokerages. But outside of these whales, there are more than 600 crypto exchanges around the world operating in a largely unregulated frontier.

Never heard of AAX, Billance and Hotbit? You aren’t alone, but like Coinbase they trade bitcoin, ether and dogecoin and offer generous margin loans–as much 20 times their initial capital— to their clients. Lacking any meaningful regulatory oversight many crypto exchanges have been vulnerable to scammers and hacks.

Japanese exchange Coincheck was hacked for $530 million in crypto in 2018, Singaporean exchange KuCoin lost $275 million in 2020, and then in December 2021 Cayman Island-based Bitmart was breached for $200 million. Back in 2016, Bitifinex was hacked to the tune of nearly 120,000 bitcoin worth $2.5 billion now.

But, despite the generous bailouts, not even Bankman-Fried is able, or willing, to throw good money after bad in perpetuity. “There are companies that are basically too far gone and it’s not practical to backstop them for reasons like a substantial hole in the balance sheet, regulatory issues, or that there is not much of a business left to be saved,” says Bankman-Fried, who declined to name any specific crypto exchanges.

As Forbes reported in its analysis of the world’s best 60 crypto exchanges, the digital asset exchange business generally lacks standards to certify a new entity before or after they start soliciting client funds. The SEC doesn’t regulate the exchanges and the Commodities Futures and Trading Commission has oversight of only a handful of crypto derivatives markets. In the United States there is no member organization like FINRA to self- regulate crypto exchanges.

Bankman-Fried is worried about continued failures because during the euphoria of rising crypto prices, exchanges kept upping the ante to attract customers with generous yields for deposits. BlockFi or Voyager were promising yield payments to customers, upwards of 12% per year that had to be paid for either by charging at least that much more interest to borrowers or more likely, by putting that money to work in decentralized finance DeFi applications.

That worked fine when crypto was going nowhere but up. It looks disastrous now. “There are companies that are basically too far gone and it’s not practical to backstop them.”

Like J.P. Morgan during the stock market panic and crash of 1907, Bankman-Fried is taking advantage of the crypto chaos to expand his empire. He recently closed the acquisition of Liquid, a troubled Japanese exchange. BlockFi and Voyager Digital are in his grip and despite his denials, Robinhood may be next. According to sources familiar with his loans to Voyager, Alameda is likely to lose at least $70 million of the credit it has already extended. In 2021, publicly-traded Voyager’s Digital had a market value of more than $3 billion.

Today it shares trade for pennies and its market cap of $62 million points to an imminent bankruptcy filing. Despite the carnage, Bankman-Fried tells Forbes that FTX remains profitable and has been for the past 10 quarters. FTX’s biggest rival Coinbase lost $432 million in the first quarter of 2022 and its stock is down almost 90% from its all-time high.

Bankman-Fried also has his eye on crypto miners, many of whom leveraged their balance sheet at breakneck pace to quickly scale and take advantage of this 21st century digital gold rush. The stocks of publicly-trading crypto miners including Marathon Digital Holdings and Riot Blockchain are down more than 60% year to date.

One bellwether crypto asset Bankman-Fried is not worried about is Tether, world’s largest dollar-pegged stablecoin with a market cap exceeding $70 billion. Many industry watchers have deemed it a ticking time bomb with questionable collateral whose failure would almost certainly be an existential threat to the entire cryptocurrency market. Tested during the Luna collapse Tether briefly lost its $1 peg and fell to a price 95 cents. However, it successfully processed over $10 billion worth of withdrawals and has since recovered.

Says Bankman-Fried, “I think that the really bearish views on Tether are wrong…I don’t think there is any evidence to support them.”

Steven Ehrlich

I am director of research for digital assets at Forbes. I was recently at Kraken, a cryptocurrency exchange based in the United States.

Source: Bankman-Fried Warns: Some Crypto Exchanges Already “Secretly Insolvent”

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07:42

Crypto Now Braced For A $2 Billion Goldman Sachs Bombshell As The Price Of Bitcoin, Ethereum, BNB, XRP, Solana, Cardano And Dogecoin Swing

Bitcoin BTC 0.0%, ethereum and other major cryptocurrencies have bounced back from a huge market meltdown this month (that some think could reveal the future tech giants). The bitcoin price has rebounded 20% since crashing to a low of under $18,000 per bitcoin last week—despite a dire China warning—with ethereum and other top ten cryptocurrencies BNB BNB +0.3%, XRP XRP -0.9%, solana, cardano and dogecoin also making gains.

Now, reports have emerged Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs is looking to raise $2 billion to snap up the assets of embattled crypto lender Celsius which has been hard hit by the latest bitcoin and crypto crash. Goldman Sachs is soliciting crypto funds and traditional financial institutions as part of the deal that could see it buy Celsius’ crypto assets at a discount, it was first reported by Coindesk, with Blockworks adding the deal could happen even if the lender does not declare bankruptcy, citing anonymous sources.

Goldman didn’t want to buy into the top of the market,” one source told Blockworks. “This is more their style.” Celsius, which had $12 billion in assets under management as of May of this year, has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy after suspending user withdrawals from the platform earlier this month, citing “extreme market conditions” and exacerbating a crypto price crash that sent bitcoin spiraling under $20,000.

Celsius has hired restructuring advisors Alvarez & Marsal, it was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal, adding to previous reports Citigroup C +3.3% has been tapped to advise on possible solutions. Goldman Sachs’ reported bid for Celsius’ crypto assets is likely to return some degree of confidence to the market after traders were left rattled by the pace of the bitcoin, ethereum and cryptocurrency sell-off.

“Even so, it may not be the best time to buy, as it may take considerable time before the crypto market digests the recent turmoil and enters a new phase of sustained demand from broad segments of investors, not just stressed asset hunters,” Alex Kuptsikevich, FxPro senior market analyst, said via email. The Celsius meltdown, coming hot on the heels of the collapse of the terraUSD stablecoin its support coin luna, has sparked fresh calls for better crypto market and crypto company regulation.

“I suspect after the recent events with Celsius that the U.S. will provide more clarity soon, on regulation towards custodial providers and lenders, to bring more stability to the crypto space,” Marcus Sotiriou, an analyst at the U.K.-based digital asset broker GlobalBlock, wrote in an emailed note.

I am a journalist with significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business around the world.

Source: Crypto Now Braced For A $2 Billion Goldman Sachs Bombshell As The Price Of Bitcoin, Ethereum, BNB, XRP, Solana, Cardano And Dogecoin Swing

Critics:

Nearly three weeks after Celsius Network suspended fund withdrawals and other operations from its platform, questions about its future are mounting.  The maneuvers behind the scenes are also increasing. The crypto firm has hired Alavarez & Marsal, a restructuring advisory firm. Celsius has tapped restructuring attorneys from law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

But the most interesting news is that Goldman Sachs  (GS) – Get Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (The) Report is trying to raise $2 billion from investors to buy distressed Celsius assets, according to Fortune and Coindesk.  Clearly the goal is to allow investors to buy Celsius’s assets at a low price in the event of the firm’s bankruptcy.

According to Fortune, which cites anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Goldman Sachs has solicited crypto firms and web 3 firms, the new iteration of the internet, as well as traditional financial institutions and companies specializing in restructuring. Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On June 12, Celsius announced that it would suspend indefinitely various transactions, including withdrawals of funds “due to extreme market conditions.” Today we are announcing that Celsius is pausing all withdrawals, Swap, and transfers between accounts,” the company said at the time. “We are taking this action today to put Celsius in a better position to honor, over time, its withdrawal obligations.”

Celsius is a cryptocurrency lending platform. The company allows anyone to borrow cryptocurrency and earn interest for lenders. “Earn high. Borrow low. Change the world,” the firm says on its website. One of its catch phrases is “Borrow like a Billionaire.” Celsius, through its CEL token, promises “financial rewards” as much as 30% extra returns weekly. But some options are not available to U.S. based users.

When it raised $400 million last October from investors led by WestCap and Canadian Caisse de dépôt du Québec (CDPQ), Celsius Network saw its valuation soar to $3 billion. The company wants to be an intermediary between traditional finance and the sphere of cryptocurrencies.

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Bybit Boosts Crypto Trading Capabilities with MetaTrader4

Cryptocurrency believers can look forward to even better trading as Bybit, one of the world’s fastest-growing crypto exchanges, completes its highly anticipated MetaTrader 4 (MT4) integration. With this upgrade, Bybit is bringing its users the advanced technical analysis, flexible trading system, and algorithmic trading tools that mark MT4 out as the current gold standard for forex (FX) and contract for differences (CFD) trading.

Developed by MetaQuotes, MT4’s functionalities on Bybit are available to all users. The platform enables 24/7 trades of USDT perpetual contracts — all with Bybit’s low spreads and deep liquidity. Bybit users can also activate Expert Advisors for an automated trading experience that allows them to integrate their trading scripts from other providers offering MT4. Equipped with MT4’s widely popular and trusted functionalities, Bybit’s innovative, streamlined platform makes trading even more intuitive than ever before.

Faster, Simpler, Smarter

With the MT4 integration, Bybit users have top trading and analytical technologies at their fingertips and can implement trading strategies with ease. Users on Bybit MT4 will be trading off Bybit’s order book and liquidity prices, facilitating direct peer-to-peer buy/sell transactions with minimal slippage granted by the platform’s deep liquidity.

For an enhanced trading experience, MT4 also comes with informative technical indicators and algorithmic trading tools. Key features include the ability to automatically copy deals of other traders, as well as various support functions for users at all stages of their trading journey.

In addition, MT4 has a range of customizable layouts, complete with an intuitive interface and interactive charts that make planning and managing trades a breeze. Whether for longtime crypto believers or the newly crypto curious, Bybit’s MT4 integration delivers advanced trading features along with a hassle-free user experience.

A World-Class Platform

Since it was founded in 2018, Bybit has rapidly made a name for itself as a provider of innovative online spot and derivatives trading services, mining and staking products, an NFT marketplace as well as API support to both retail and institutional clients around the globe. Bybit has emerged as a next-level exchange for digital assets thanks to a smart and robust system that underlines speed, security, transparency, and market depth.

Liquidity is arguably the be-all and end-all of asset exchanges, and this is a leading quality of Bybit’s derivatives trading platform. With abundant liquidity and the tightest spread, Bybit guarantees that traders have the best quote and execution on the market even during periods of extreme volatility.

What’s more, with a 99.99% up rate, Bybit has proven to be the most reliable, stable, and usable crypto exchange of the bull run. The platform had no overload or downtime throughout the year — a unique attribute among major exchanges.

With a whole host of retail-focused products and customer-centric services (including multilingual support), Bybit’s platform is designed to help lower the entry threshold to digital assets trading, inviting people around the world to enjoy easy and immediate delivery of crypto transactions. With MT4, Bybit is furthering its mission to become a fully integrated trading powerhouse with a stellar, user-friendly interface.

“As one of the most advanced and convenient trading solutions, MT4 is an excellent tool for our users to elevate their trading experience,” said Ben Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Bybit. “We are excited to bring our products and services to the next level with this integration with MT4, and we look forward to our users benefiting from its functionalities and navigating the rise of digital assets with us.”

Source: Bybit Crypto Trading Capabilities MetaTrader4

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India’s Young Investors Prefer Crypto To Gold and Boring Stocks

Indian businesswoman Swati Daga first bought bitcoin in 2017, when the cryptocurrency was trading well under $3,000. Her decision to invest in digital currencies was met with wariness by her family, she recalls.

“The elders in my family told me not to throw my money away,” said Daga, who runs a food business near New Delhi.But the 33-year-old hasn’t regretted her decision — bitcoin’s value has increased 15 times since then — and she continues to invest as much as 10% of her savings in cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin and ethereum.

“I find stock markets boring,” she told CNN Business, adding that she enjoys the “thrill” and “recklessness” that comes with investing in volatile currencies. She is not the only one. India has seen a huge boom in cryptocurrency trading since the start of the pandemic, even though authorities in Asia’s third largest economy have for years expressed concerns about digital currencies, and even banning them.

Entrepreneurs in the industry told CNN Business that the country has the potential to become a crypto superpower, since it is one of the hottest internet markets in the world, with 750 million users, and hundreds of millions more yet to come online for the first time. India ranked second behind only Vietnam last year in a list of countries seeing the fastest growth in cryptocurrency adoption, according to a report published in October by blockchain data platform Chainalysis.

While the government does not keep estimates of how many people trade cryptocurrencies, industry experts have suggested that the country may now have more than 20 million crypto investors. The growth is driven by younger investors — mostly under the age of 35 — and many of them are coming from smaller cities and towns, founders of two of India’s biggest crypto exchanges told CNN Business.

According to Sumit Gupta, CEO and co-founder of exchange CoinDCX, many Indian millennials have started “their investing journey with crypto.” While 20 years ago, their parents chose to invest in gold, these youngsters “are more interested in having bitcoin as part of their portfolio,” Gupta told CNN Business, referring to the fact that traditionally Indians chose to park their money in gold or savings accounts.

Buying gold is both an investment and a cultural habit in India, which is one of the largest markets for the precious metal, according to the World Gold Council. It also considered auspicious by Hindus and Jains, and plays a fundamental role in many religious ceremonies. Mumbai-based CoinDCX became India’s first crypto unicorn last year, achieving a valuation of $1.1 billion after raising money from investors such as Coinbase Ventures and B Capital Group.

The company says 70% of its 10 million users are between the age of 18 and 34. The CoinDCX app is seen on a phone screen in West Bengal, India, in August 2021. Data shared by rival firm WazirX tell a similar story. WazirX also has over 10 million users, and called 2021 a phenomenal year for crypto trading in India. The company was acquired by Binance,  one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, in 2019.

Over 65% of its users are under the age of 35, according to a recent company report, and it has seen a “700% increase in the number of participants from smaller cities like Guwahati, Karnal, Bareilly, thereby signaling the growing interest from rural and semi-urban areas.”

Pritish Kumawat, a crypto trader from a small town in the western state of Rajasthan, said that he now finds conversations about cryptocurrencies in almost every tea shop in his area.

Often, the most engaged participants are college students, he said, adding that bitcoin’s massive spike last year has fueled the frenzy in India. In November, bitcoin was trading at a record high of $68000 but it has since fallen to around $43,000. In addition to bitcoin, meme currencies such as dogecoin and shiba inu are also popular among Indians, the WazirX report added.

Apart from investors from smaller towns, both companies saw an increase of more than 1000% in the number of women users on their platforms, albeit on a small base. Gupta said that participation of crypto by Indian women has seen “a massive upside” in the past 18 months and is “fairly high, fairly healthy, relative to equity markets.” The company’s data shows that 15% of their overall users are women — which is the global trend as well.

On-again, off-again relationship

The excitement over crypto is rising in India despite the country’s on-again, off-again relationship with digital currencies. The central bank has long expressed concerns that cryptocurrencies can be used for money laundering and to finance terrorism. A cryptically worded proposal posted on the Indian parliament website last year even suggested the government was exploring plans to “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India.”

This year, however, started on a more cheerful note for enthusiasts. Earlier this month, the Indian government announced it would impose a 30% tax on income from virtual digital assets, which many industry experts took as a sign that crypto trading won’t be banned after all. The government also said it would launch a digital rupee in the coming months.

“Taxation of virtual digital assets or crypto is a step in the right direction. It gives much-needed clarity and confidence to the industry,” Gupta said at the time of the announcement. Siddharth Menon, the co-founder of WazirX, told CNN Business that following the announcement, his platform saw daily sign-ups jump by over 50%. He also noticed rising interest among Indian developers and other professionals in joining the crypto industry.WazirX's website is shown in New York, USA, in April 2021.

“I’m getting LinkedIn messages” from senior executives in India, who are now more optimistic about the business, he said. In the past, Indian exchanges have struggled to hire and retain experienced people due to the lack of clear regulations. But the Indian government soon put a damper on the mood, by clarifying that the cryptocurrencies are not yet legal in the country.

“I am not doing anything to legalize it or ban it or not legalize it,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharama said in parliament a few days after announcing the tax rate. “Banning or not banning will come subsequently … But I will tax because it is a sovereign right.” “I think the government is not entirely sure what it wants to do from a policy perspective,” said Anirudh Rastogi, founder of tech law firm Ikigaw Law, which works with crypto exchanges in India.

“It knows where it wants to land broadly. It wants to find the right balance where it is not disconnected from the global progress in blockchain and other tech, but it wants to also address concerns regarding cryptocurrency.” Rastogi added that the “extraordinarily high” tax on crypto is a short-term fix, which will also acts as a deterrent to many investors.

“This rate is typically used to tax activities that are not considered economically productive, such as lottery,” he said. “So this could be an indication that the government wants to make revenue, but it does not see crypto trading as economically productive.” For equities, India applies a 15% short-term capital gains tax if shares are sold in less than a year, and 10% if sold after a year.

Gupta hopes that the government makes up its mind soon. India, with its vast pool of developers and enthusiastic young population, could be a “superpower in the next five to 10 years,” in cryptocurrency and blockchain industry, he said. “What is missing right now is a clear regulatory framework,” he added.

Source: India’s young investors prefer crypto to gold and ‘boring’ stocks – CNN

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US Stocks Mixed Monday As Investors Deal With Reality of Upcoming Higher Fed Rates

U.S. stocks were trading mostly lower early Monday morning after climbing Friday buoyed by strong earnings from Apple and other big companies. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average snapped a three-week losing streak.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index rose 2.4% on Friday, giving major indexes their biggest gains this year.

Investors have been rattled by the Federal Reserve’s decision to try to cool inflation by accelerating plans to raise interest rates and wind down bond purchases and other stimulus that is boosting stock prices.

“Prospects of rising rates and shrinking global liquidity compressed within a much shorter time-frame brings with it appreciable risks of unsettling markets,” Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank said in a report.

On Friday, the S&P 500 rose to 4,431.85 for its biggest gain since June 2020. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.7% to 34,725.47. The Nasdaq composite jumped 3.1% to 13,770.57.

In this photo provided by the New York Stock Exchange, traders James Riley and Ashley Lara work on the floor Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. U.S. stocks were trading mostly higher early Monday morning after climbing Friday buoyed by strong earnings from Apple

Asian stocks followed Wall Street higher Monday at the start of a week when China, South Korea and Southeast Asian markets will close for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Benchmarks in Tokyo and Hong Kong advanced while Sydney declined. Markets in mainland China, South Korea and Taiwan were closed. Hong Kong and Southeast Asia were due to close later in the week.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 1.2% to 27,028.84 after the government reported December retail sales fell 1% from the previous month’s 2 1/2-year high. That was driven by a 4% fall in food purchases.

The Hang Seng gained 1.1% to 23,802.26 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.2% to 6,971.60.

India’s Sensex opened up 1.3% at 57,960.41. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets gained. The major cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin were all down hours before the opening bell on Wall Street.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.01 to $87.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 21 cents on Friday to $86.82. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, added $1.01 to $89.53 per barrel in London. It advanced 69 cents the previous session to $90.03.

The dollar gained to 115.41 yen from Friday’s 115.23 yen. The euro rose to $1.1166 from $1.1146.

Source: US stocks mixed Monday as investors deal with reality of upcoming higher Fed rates | Fox Business

.

Critics:

US stocks ended higher Monday after suffering staggering losses earlier in the session, with investors staging a rally after early concerns around the Federal Reserve ‘s policy meeting set to kick off on Tuesday. 

The S&P 500 dropped briefly into a correction, down more than 10% from its all-time high, but ended higher almost 0.3%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average at one point fell by more than 1,000 and the Nasdaq Composite had logged a 4% loss

“Investors may have gotten a bit too pessimistic about the growth outlook,” said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note. 

According to Moya, investors may have been reacting to the prospect that the Fed hikes by 50 basis points at its March meeting, higher than the 25 basis points most have been anticipating. 

Here’s where US indexes stood at 4:00 p.m. on Monday:   

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