Crypto Mergers And Acquisitions (M&A) Surges As Rest of World Eclipses U.S. (#GotBitcoin?)
Deal value in the cryptocurrency world surpassed the total from 2019 in the first six months of the year as tie-ups became less frequent but bigger, according to PwC. Crypto M&A Surges Past 2019 Total As Rest of World Eclipses U.S. (#GotBitcoin?)
Global deal value was $597 million in the first half of 2020 compared with $481 million over the whole of last year, PwC said in a report on the crypto merger, acquisition and fund raising landscape.
While 2020 includes the purchase of CoinMarketCap.com by Binance Holdings Ltd., even factoring out that deal valued at $400 million in the report, the average size has risen but not the quantity — there were 125 tie-ups in 2019 versus 60 in the first half of 2020, PwC said. Activity continues to shift away from the Americas, with 57% of volume in Asia-Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the first half versus 51% last year.
“We expect crypto M&A activity to remain strong for the coming months particularly with some of the larger or more profitable players acquiring firms that offer ancillary services to their current offerings,” said PwC Crypto Leader Henri Arslanian. “We should expect the large crypto unicorns to become increasingly like ‘crypto octopuses’ by acquiring or investing in various ancillary businesses in order to remain dominant.”
Crypto as an asset class is having a good year. The Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index is up more than 80%, compared with a gain of less than 10% for the S&P 500, as digital money benefits from a boom in decentralized finance and a maturing of the market. Companies like Square Inc. and MicroStrategy Inc. have put some of their money in crypto, as has legendary investor Paul Tudor Jones, boosting demand and demonstrating interest from bigger players.
The first half of this year also saw an increase in fund raising involving crypto exchanges or trading companies, PwC said. The report attributed the gain to rising crypto prices, increased institutional interest and greater regulatory clarity.
SEC-approved Crypto IPO Issuer INX Acquires STO Platform OpenFinance
The crypto industry records another major acquisition in 2020.
According to an official announcement, INX has signed a term sheet for the acquisition of OpenFinance, which operates as a registered broker-dealer in compliance with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.
With the new deal, INX is set to acquire OpenFinance’s broker-dealer and alternative trading system business including its systems, digital asset listings, client base and licenses.
OpenFinance’s listings include firms like major industry venture capital firm Blockchain Capital, Spice VC and Lottery.com. INX’s representatives said that their company will assure continuity of operations and service to OpenFinance’s customer base.
Shy Datika, president and founder of INX, outlined that the new acquisition will bolster INX’s leadership in the the digital assets’ ecosystem, stating:
“Digital securities represent a new evolution in traditional capital markets. There are massive benefits of listing and trading digital assets versus traditional equities. Openfinance has pioneered this space and earned the respect of Wall Street, the blockchain community, and U.S. regulators.”
Openfinance CEO Jim Stonebridge highlighted that INX and Openfinance share the same vision of providing a safe and regulated ecosystem for listing and trading of digital assets. “We believe that regulatory oversight, combined with liquidity, will make digital assets the financial instrument of choice for companies and investors seeking to access and raise capital,” Stonebridge noted.
The latest news comes amid the INX’s ongoing initial public offering, or IPO, registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Launched in August 2020, the $117 million IPO claims to be the first-ever security token IPO that is registered with the SEC. Starting from Sept. 14, INX’s IPO has been accepting major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH).
Top Crypto Mergers And Acquisitions Of 2020
Amid the chaos that was 2020, crypto companies inked almost $700 million worth of mergers and acquisitions.
The blockchain industry shrugged off the craziness of the 2020 pandemic, with many companies thriving in the “remote” working environments brought about by COVID-19.
Almost $700 million in mergers and acquisitions took place in 2020 across 83 transactions. That’s the largest number ever and a sizeable increase from the previous record of 69 M&A transactions in 2018. The majority of activity last year was within the industry itself, consolidating the sector with minimal engagement from external companies.
More than 90% of the $691 million reported was comprised of the top three acquisitions by Binance ($400 million), FTX ($150 million) and Coinbase ($90 million).
Binance’s purchase of CoinMarketCap at the end of March 2020 for a reported $400 million equaled the largest blockchain acquisitions of all time, rivaled only by Circle’s purchase of Poloniex and NXMH’s purchase of Bitstamp, both for $400 million, in 2018.
The leading exchange by volume received sharp criticism over the purchase, as it appears to represent a conflict of interest given that CoinMarketCap is a data and analytics company that provides comparative data about crypto exchanges, including Binance.
Jack Purdy, an analyst for Messari, told Cointelegraph that the takeover sets a negative precedent for the industry, no matter how well either company behaves. “It does represent a fundamental conflict of interest that has negative externalities for the space,” he said. “It’s like if Joe’s Pizza came out with the top 10 pizza slices in New York and everyone that uses that list happens to be those least informed to make the decision on where to go.”
“Even though Binance/CMC can be completely well-intentioned, it’s impossible for ratings not to be influenced by the underlying bias of the creators. If there are objective weightings to a system that would hurt Binance’s standing, it’s more likely than not that it won’t be implemented.”
Binance has claimed that both companies are individual entities and there is no bias from CMC. Despite the early criticism, it appears that sentiment toward the acquisition has softened in more recent months. In October 2020, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried voiced his opinion on Twitter that Binance was actually a lifesaver for CoinMarketCap:
“Pretty much the day Binance bought CMC, it started getting better — a lot better. It has a lot of catching up to do, but the product has gone from hopelessly f—ed to competitive.”
This wasn’t the only activity by the leading exchange, with Binance acquiring multiple other companies throughout 2019 and 2020, including crypto debit card provider Swipe for an undisclosed sum. Similar to CoinMarketCap, Swipe chief operating officer John Khenneth also stated that “The deal was structured where Swipe is able to run the company independently from Binance.”
Other Binance acquisitions include Korea-based stablecoin company BxB, decentralized app information platform DappReview and Indian crypto exchange WazirX.
In a recent press conference, Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhou hinted that the company will acquire between 20 to 30 other companies in 2021, further strengthening its position in the crypto sector.
Crypto exchange FTX, which only launched in 2019, was the only other company to conduct a nine-figure acquisition in 2020, with the purchase of portfolio management app Blockfolio for $150 million.
The purchase has the potential to bring its 6 million users to the exchange. Although Blockfolio does not have as many unique users as CoinMarketCap, the level of user engagement is considerably higher, with more than 150 million impressions per month.
Blockfolio co-founder and CEO Ed Moncada told Cointelegraph that the company will continue to function as an independent app.
United States crypto exchange Coinbase actually leads the pack with the largest number of acquisitions to date — six more than Binance. The company has completed at least 16 deals in its history, with the most recent one being the acquisition of prime brokerage platform Tagomi for $90 million.
According to reports, Tagomi had been struggling with revenue as low as $1 million from its $1 billion in annual trading volume after it slashed trading fees.
Publicly traded companies also got involved, with advanced software solutions company CleanSpark acquiring crypto mining firm ATL Data Centers for just under $20 million worth of the company’s stock.
Other notable acquisitions include Galaxy Digital’s purchase of digital-asset investment and borrowing platform DrawBridge Lending, as well as futures markets liquidity provider Blue Fire Capital. Although the figures were not disclosed, Galaxy Digital said that DrawBridge will end up with more than $150 million in third-party assets as a result.
In September 2020, New York-based CB Insights announced it would soon open an office in Amsterdam as part of its acquisition of blockchain data provider Blockdata for an undisclosed sum.
Smart contract provider TrustSwap also expanded its reach, acquiring one of its biggest competitors, Team.Finance.
The recent acquisition of second-layer Ethereum scaling solution OMG Network by Hong Kong-based over-the-counter trading firm Genesis Block is said to help accelerate the network’s development, with a specific focus on DeFi.
PayPal was also looking to join the mergers-and-acquisitions party after enabling crypto purchases for the first time; however, talks to acquire crypto custody provider BitGo appear to have now fallen through. Rumors suggest PayPal is in talks with other crypto companies.
With the dramatic surge in decentralized finance this year, burgeoning DeFi protocols have also started merging. In November, Yearn.finance went on a collaboration and merger spree, including with market coverage provider Cover Protocol and lending protocol Cream Finance.
Although acquisitions are often a sign of a thriving industry, they have led to some critics raising concerns over increasing centralization. Acquisitions of rivals by leading companies strengthen their control of the market, potentially reducing competition.
Coinbase Buying Spree Continues With The Acquisition Of Bison Trails
Bison Trails, a leading blockchain infrastructure platform, has been acquired by the San Franciso-based exchange.
Coinbase, the U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange, has made another strategic acquisition — this time in the critical field of blockchain infrastructure.
The company announced Tuesday that it had acquired Bison Trails, a fully managed blockchain infrastructure provider, in a deal that provides a “foundational element” within its growing ecosystem of products.
“By joining forces, we aim to bring the advanced technology that the Bison Trails team has developed — and continues to develop — to more projects and more companies around the world.”
Bison Trails will continue to operate as a standalone product, Coinbase said.
Founded in 2018, Bison Trails has carved out a strong reputation in the blockchain industry. Last November, Bison Trails launched its QT protocol allowing developers to build on Facebook’s libra forthcoming Libra blockchain. The company also pioneered new technology that addresses so-called slashing penalties associated with double signing messages, which is considered one of the biggest risks of blockchain participation.
Joe Lallouz, Bison Trails’ CEO, tells Cointelegraph that he and co-founder Aaron Henshaw officially unveiled their company to the world in Mar 2019. At the time, Bison Trails was marketed as the first “infrastructure as a service company designed for next-generation blockchain networks.”
“It’s remarkable to look back at that announcement post and recognize how little of our approach changed in the time since, despite the rapid growth and evolution of the ecosystem,” he said.
“We are incredibly excited to join Coinbase as a standalone product line in the Coinbase portfolio, an anchor of Coinbase’s third pillar of crypto services for developer tools and ecosystem advancement.”
As for Coinbase, the leading crypto exchange has been consolidating its already strong industry position ahead of an expected initial public offering later this year. As Cointelegraph reported earlier this month, Coinbase recently acquired the Routefire platform — a move that could significantly boost trade execution and help protect against severe outages during periods of volatility.
Coinbase boasts of more than 35 million verified users in over 100 countries. The company has reported cumulative trade volumes in excess of $320 billion, offering further validation that digital asset markets are here to stay.
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