|A pedestrian passes by the Bithumb Korea headquarters in Seoul in this file photo. / Yonhap|
By Park Jae-hyuk
Vidente, a major shareholder of Bithumb Korea, has denied news reports that the company is in talks with Nexon to jointly take over a controlling stake in the cryptocurrency exchange operator, according to a regulatory filing Friday.
Local news outlets reported Thursday that Nexon founder Kim Jung-ju had joined hands with Vidente to acquire the managerial rights of Bithumb Korea from Bithumb Holdings for about 500 billion won ($457 million).
The reports said Kim signed a memorandum of understanding with the seller earlier this month, so that Nexon's holding company, NXC, could buy a 65 percent stake in the exchange operator.
Retail investors trusted the news because NXC acquired a 65.19 percent stake in the nation's first cryptocurrency exchange, Korbit, for 91.3 billion won in 2017 and an 80 percent stake in the European cryptocurrency exchange, Bitstamp, for $400 million the following year.
Vidente's stock price hit its daily limit-up at 11,350 won Friday morning, but fell immediately after the company denied the news. It closed at 10,250 won, up 17.28 percent from the previous session's close.
"We have been aware that Bithumb Holdings board Chairman Lee Jung-hoon has sought to sell his controlling stake after hiring Samjong KPMG as an underwriter," Vidente said in its filing. "We have yet to decide whether to sell our stake in Bithumb Holdings or to acquire an additional stake."
Because Lee is presumed to hold a significant amount of shares in DAA and BTHMB Holdings, collectively holding a 40.7 percent stake in Bithumb Holdings, he is considered the de facto owner of the latter, although the largest shareholder is officially Vidente which holds a 34.2 percent stake.
According to a regulatory filing by Vidente, Bithumb Holdings owns a 34.2 percent stake in Bithumb Korea, while Vidente has a 10.3 percent stake.
Lee has been mired in several legal disputes which could lead the financial authorities to prevent Bithumb Korea from doing business on virtual assets. Industry officials believe the lawsuits facing him have forced him to accelerate efforts to sell his stake in Bithumb Korea.
Amid the ongoing bitcoin rally, however, Bithumb Holdings and Samjong KPMG will likely be more careful about choosing a preferred bidder to take over Bithumb Korea, so as to sell the cryptocurrency exchange operator for a higher price.