The crypto winter is killing off companies that took on big risks when markets were booming. So is this the shakeout all financial markets go through?
Hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC) looks like the biggest casualty of the crypto price collapse so far after filing for bankruptcy in the U.S., but according to blockchain business advisor Anndy Lian, the worst may be yet to come.
“It will have a snowball effect,” said Lian, who is a fund manager for blockchain investments at Passion Venture Capital Pte. in Singapore and advises Mongolia’s government on the industry.“[The impact] will not just be on 3AC, it will be on 3AC’s involvement as an investor or as a fund manager, then it will snowball down,” Lian said in an interview with Forkast.
That snowball has already hit crypto lending platform Voyager Digital Ltd., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday in New York. Yet as more companies get swamped, some in the industry are calling it a necessary shakeout after the excesses of last year’s record-setting crypto price surge.
Voyager Digital had earlier halted or limited customer withdrawals, a move adopted by other lenders such as BlockFi. Crypto exchange Celsius was one of the first lending and staking platforms to halt withdrawals in early June, citing the common refrain “extreme market conditions.”
The collapse of Terra, which some argue helped trigger the bankruptcies now being filed, saw its Luna token fall from the ranks of a top 10 cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of almost US$30 billion to effectively zero in a matter of days.
Any firm with significant exposure to the Terra project was hit hard by the collapse, including 3AC, which had a US$200 million investment in Luna Foundation Guard, the organization behind the Terra stablecoin, effectively wiped out when the project went south.
As 3AC sank into funding trouble, Voyager got hit after disclosing it had loaned over US$650 million in the USDC stablecoin and Bitcoin to 3AC, which it might not be getting back. BlockFi was among the lenders that foreclosed on roughly US$400 million in loans to 3AC.
In the crypto boom times, many of these companies with lending and staking platforms were venturing into ever more risky areas for profits, Igneus Terrenus, head of communications at crypto exchange Bybit, said in an interview with Forkast.
“It’s almost a repeat or like a rhyming [with] what happened with the subprime mortgage crisis (which led to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008),” he said. “These firms just have to go further and deeper into more risky area because there is so much appetite.”
One of the world’s largest investment banks, Goldman Sachs is said to be looking to raise US$2 billion to buy distressed assets from Celsius, though Goldman hasn’t commented on the speculation.
Companies native to the crypto industry are also looking for opportunities, with Bahamas-based crypto exchange FTX providing a US$400 million loan to BlockFi that includes an option to buy the troubled crypto lender.
Buying these firms out is a “smart move” Terrenus said, not only as a business opportunity, but in the case of FTX it creates a positive impression of a “savior” within the industry and grants confidence back to those firms and the market in general.
While the so-called contagion spreads in the crypto industry, it hasn’t reached broader traditional markets — this time around.
In its recent Financial Stability Report, the Bank of England highlighted how vulnerabilities in the crypto market, such as over-leveraging and breakdown of confidence in stablecoins, have contributed to the crypto crash.
The BoE recommended increased regulation of the industry to minimize the risk to broader markets as crypto adoption grows and become further entwined within traditional finance.
“It happens to everybody,” he said. “The fact that it’s happening to crypto now I don’t think should come as a surprise to people. The really important thing is what the crypto industry does now that it’s happened.”
Some of these firms will have to look at strengthening their balance sheets and internal controls, Sullivan added.
Many of these firms that are in trouble at the moment are not true DeFi (decentralized finance), but traditional centralized businesses just focused on cryptocurrency, he said.
“Decentralized protocols actually performed exactly how they intended to and avoided the perils that the likes of BlockFi, Celsius and Voyager are experiencing,” Sullivan said.
Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.
An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.