Binance is backing out of its plans to acquire FTX, the company said Wednesday, leaving Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire on the verge of collapse.
The reversal comes one day after Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao announced that the world’s largest cryptocurrency firm had reached a nonbinding deal to buy FTX’s non-U.S. businesses for an undisclosed amount, rescuing the company from a liquidity crisis. Earlier this year, FTX was valued at $32 billion by private investors.
“In the beginning, our hope was to be able to support FTX’s customers to provide liquidity,” Binance said in a tweet Wednesday. “But the issues are beyond our control or ability to help.”
On Monday night, facing a liquidity crunch, Bankman-Fried was scrambling to raise money from venture capitalists and other investors before he went to Binance, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. Zhao initially agreed to step in, but his company quickly changed course, citing reports of “mishandled customer funds and alleged U.S. agency investigations.”
It’s unclear who is next in line to buy the beleaguered crypto exchange. Bankman-Fried told investors that the company is facing a shortfall of up to $8 billion from withdrawal requests and needs emergency funding, according to a person familiar with the matter.
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The disintegration of the Binance-FTX deal is the latest chapter in a shocking collapse that’s rocked the crypto world this week. Bankman-Fried tried to reassure investors just on Monday that the company’s assets were fine. But after Binance’s Zhao said publicly that his company was selling its holdings in FTX’s native token FTT, the sell-off was on, and FTX could do nothing to stop it.
One of Silicon Valley’s most prominent VC firms, Sequoia Capital, sank $210 million into the company, according to independent reporter Eric Newcomer. FTX was telling investors recently that its operating income in 2022 was projected to drop to $144 million this year, down from $338 million in 2021, while revenue was projected to rise to $1.1 billion from $1 billion last year, Newcomer reports.
Bankman-Fried said Tuesday that customers had demanded withdrawals to the tune of $6 billion. He also deleted tweets from the prior day indicating that FTX had enough assets to cover clients’ holdings.
Zhao told Binance employees in a memo earlier Wednesday that he “did not master plan” the collapse of FTX. He said FTX going down is “not good for anyone in the industry” and employees should not “view it as a win for us.”
He also told them not to trade FTT tokens while this ordeal unfolds.
“If you have a bag, you have a bag,” he wrote. “DO NOT buy or sell.”
FTT had already lost 80% of its value between Monday and Tuesday, falling to $5 and wiping out more than $2 billion in a day. It dropped by more than half on Wednesday to around $2.30, shrinking the total value of circulating tokens to roughly $308 million.
Cryptocurrencies have plummeted amid the deal turmoil, with bitcoin falling 15% on Wednesday after a 13% drop on Tuesday. It’s trading below $16,000 for the first time since November 2020. Ether, meanwhile, has plunged more than 30% over the past two days and is close to falling below $1,000.
Here’s the company’s full statement:
“As a result of corporate due diligence, as well as the latest news reports regarding mishandled customer funds and alleged US agency investigations, we have decided that we will not pursue the potential acquisition of FTX.com.
In the beginning, our hope was to be able to support FTX’s customers to provide liquidity, but the issues are beyond our control or ability to help.
Every time a major player in an industry fails, retail consumers will suffer. We have seen over the last several years that the crypto ecosystem is becoming more resilient and we believe in time that outliers that misuse user funds will be weeded out by the free market.
As regulatory frameworks are developed and as the industry continues to evolve toward greater decentralization, the ecosystem will grow stronger.”
Correction: FTX was telling investors its operating income was projected to drop to $144 million this year, down from $338 million in 2021.