LONDON — Bitstamp, the world’s oldest surviving bitcoin exchange, is up for sale, according to people familiar with the matter, and a South Korean gaming company is said to be close to finalizing a deal to buy it.
Three people with knowledge of the deal told Business Insider that Bitstamp was in the middle of a sales process, and two of those people named Nexon as the likely buyer. They said the price being discussed is around $350 million. All three declined to be named as they are not authorized to discuss the deal.
The situation is fluid, and a deal could fall apart. Two of the people told Business Insider that Bitstamp had been involved in at least one other sale process prior to the Nexon deal, although they did not elaborate on the attempted transactions.
A spokesperson for Nexon Japan said: “We can neither confirm nor deny the facts about your inquiry.”
A spokesperson for Bitstamp said: “I am not in the position to comment on the matter. We kindly ask you to keep an eye out for any official statement from our side on the topic of your inquiry.”
Luxembourg-headquartered Bitstamp, founded in 2011, has 3 million registered accounts and 500,000 active trading accounts, its CEO told BI in January. The exchange is the 13th biggest in the world and had a 24-hour trade volume of $246 million as of Tuesday. The spot price of bitcoin on Bitstamp is one of the measures used to calculate the price of futures contracts by CME Group.
Nexon Group, founded in 1995, specializes in PC and mobile games. It has developed titles such as the Korean and Japanese versions of Counter Strike and the Korean version of soccer game FIFA Online. The company is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of ¥1.3 trillion ($12.7 billion, £9.1 billion).
Japan is a hub for cryptocurrency trading, and 40% of bitcoin trading from October to November 2017 was conducted in yen, according to a Nikkei report.
Bitstamp CEO Nejc Kodrič told Business Insider in January that the business had grown from a few dozen people at the start of last year to almost 200 staff as the exchange saw a surge in new sign-ups at the end of 2017.
Kodrič said the exchange was getting as many as 100,000 new sign-ups a day in December and added that Bitstamp had “more than enough internal cash flow to sustain the growth of the company.”
The sale of Bitstamp is part of a flurry of dealmaking in the cryptocurrency exchange space. Goldman Sachs-backed cryptocurrency business Circle acquired exchange Poloniex for $400 million in February and earlier this month online brokerage Monex Group bought Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck.
Bitstamp raised £7 million ($10 million) from Pantera Capital in 2013 and £1.7 million ($2.4 million) through a crowdfunding campaign at the start of 2017.
South Korean regulators said they were preparing to ban bitcoin trading in the country, following a crackdown on initial coin offerings in 2017. In February, the regulators softened their stance and signaled support for “normal” cryptocurrency trading, according to a Bloomberg report.