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He was hailed as crypto’s saviour. Now he needs billions for a bailout

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Last week, California billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried was touted as a key figure in cryptocurrency — even a saviour. Today, amid a series of apologetic tweets, he said “I f–ked up” after his cryptocurrency exchange bled billions of dollars.

His FTX exchange is now scrambling to raise $9.4 billion US from both investors and rivals, as customers rush to withdraw their funds.

A lot of people trusted FTX as a place to buy tokens or cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin.

Now industry watchers say its spectacular fall may be the catalyst that forces governments — including Canada’s — to crack down on cryptocurrency.

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The trouble sparked when the rival owner of the world’s largest exchange, Binance, questioned the stability of FTX on Twitter. That touched off a three-day panic costing FTX an estimated $6 billion US.

Binance head Changpeng Zhao then on Wednesday backtracked on a proposed buyout of his second-ranked rival, citing regulatory concerns, according to the New York Times.

That sent FTX into a tailspin.

Bankman-Fried has said he’s in talks with others on another rescue deal, but made no promises.

“I’m sorry. That’s the biggest thing. I f–ked up, and should have done better,” he wrote on Twitter.

What exact mistakes were made, remain unclear.

But crypto experts say investor money that should be “liquid” is not.

FTX was facing mounting legal and regulatory threats before withdrawals were frozen, according to Samson Mow, CEO of Pixelmatic and JAN3, a new bitcoin technology company.

Binance CEO and founder Changpeng Zhao, left, meets with El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele in San Salvador, El Salvador, on March 24. Zhao was briefly poised to buy out FTX. (Secretaria de Prensa de la Presidencia/Reuters)

Mow says the FTX explosion has a familiar feel, though digital assets like bitcoin and ethereum were not the problem.

He says the exchange created tokens called FTT that were used to hold value. FTT was the backbone of FTX so when its value dipped, users scrambled to get out.

Mow says the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission is investigating and that it seems like client money may have been improperly used to help dig FTX’s affiliate company Alameda Research out of a $10-billion hole.

People who bought bitcoin or other currencies through the exchange now can’t withdraw them.

Mow says bitcoin is reliable but that exchanges which rely on tokens like FTT as collateral are built on a house of financial cards.

He said users know the risk of being “lazy” and leaving assets unclaimed on a currency exchange.

Binance and FTX logos are seen in this illustration. Bankman-Fried blamed himself for FTX’s losses, though it’s not clear what exactly went wrong. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

“You gambled on a casino that went bust — and now you’ve lost your money,” said Mow.

He says people who did not withdraw their digital assets and keep them in their own wallet now can’t get access them, because FTX used FTT as collateral and those tokens are now worthless, he says.

“There’s an old saying — not your keys, not your coins. It’s not a new lesson. People are just not learning. They are gambling — and got what they deserved.”

The implosion of FTX, which was valued at $32 billion US not long ago, is just the latest bad news for digital asset investors. Bitcoin prices are less than a third what they were at their height in 2021, before a big crash last fall.

But Bankman-Fried was seen as an influential player, someone who “was working closely with regulators,” to try to regulate the space, said Ashley Stanhope of Ether Capital Corp., a public company focused on ethereum, and a founding member for the Canadian Web3 Council, a group collaborating with governments to build better investor protections.

He had also spent millions helping other companies, claiming he was a proponent of effective altruism, a movement that espouses charitable giving to safeguard humanity’s future.

An advertisement for bitcoin is displayed on a street in Hong Kong, on Feb. 17. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

Her interpretation of his apology is that he made “genuine missteps. It doesn’t sound like he was trying to scam investors or do do them wrong,” she said.

Stanhope says this situation hurts the industry’s credibility and that she fears regulators will now “paint all crypto with the same brush.”

Among FTX’s investors is the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan’s (OTPP) which put more than $126 million into the exchange between October 2021 and January 2022.

In a statement the OTPP said Thursday the “uncertainty” at FTX will have “limited impact” on the pension plan, as the investment was less than 0.05 per cent of its total net assets.

As for FTX’s losses and how they will affect the industry, Stanhope admits it’s a challenge, and that Bankman-Fried’s fall will likely shift the crypto landscape.

“The FTX implosion will likely change investors’ approach,” she said.

“We’ll probably see more users take their assets off centralized exchanges and rely on self-hosted wallets,” until exchanges are safer and more transparent, she said.

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Indian tycoon Adani hit by more losses, calls for probe

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NEW DELHI (AP) – Trading in shares in troubled Adani Enterprises gyrated Friday as the flagship company of India’s second-largest conglomerate tumbled 30% and then rebounded after more than a week of heavy losses that have cost it tens of billions of dollars in market value.

The debacle, which led Adani to cancel a share offering meant to raise $2.5 billion, has drawn calls for regulators to investigate after a U.S. short-selling firm, Hindenburg Research, issued a report claiming the group engages in market manipulation and other fraudulent practices. Adani denies the allegations.

Opposition lawmakers blocked Parliament proceedings for a second day Friday, chanting slogans and demanding a probe into the business dealings of coal tycoon Gautam Adani, who is said to enjoy close ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We have no connection″ with the Adani controversy, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told reporters outside Parliament on Friday.

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In an interview with CNN News 18, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman brushed off concerns that the losses would spook global investors and said India’s financial market was “very well regulated.”

“As a result, the investors’ confidence which existed before shall continue even now,” she said, adding that the controversy wasn’t “indicative of how well Indian financial markets are governed.”

Amit Malviya, the governing Bharatiya Janata Party’s information and technology chief, said in a television interview that the opposition was using Adani’s crisis to target the Modi government over a private company’s shares and their market movements. “Regulators are looking into” what happened, he said.

The market watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, has not commented. The Economic Times newspaper reported, citing unnamed SEBI sources, that it had asked stock exchanges to check for any unusual activity in Adani stocks.

Shares in Adani Enterprises fell as much as 30%, to 1,017 rupees ($12), on Friday. At the end of trading, the price had recovered to 1,531 rupees ($18.70) but was still down by 2%. The company’s share price has plunged more than 50% since Hindenburg released its report last week, when it stood at 3,436 rupees ($41). Stock in six other Adani-listed companies were down 5% to 10% on Friday.

So far there has been no indication that the company’s woes might threaten the wider financial sector in India. Its equities market is large enough to sustain the fallout at this moment, said Brian Freitas, a New Zealand-based analyst with Periscope Analytics who has researched the Adani Group.

“Adani stock forms a small part of the equities market and investor concerns right now are restricted to the company, not the whole system or market itself,” Freitas said. India’s Nifty and Sensex indexes were both higher on Friday.

It could take time for problems to surface, Shilan Shah of Capital Economics said in a report. “From the macro perspective there are few signs of contagion,” he said. “But it is too early to sound the all clear.”

The S&P Dow Jones indices said Thursday it would remove Adani Enterprises from its sustainability indices beginning Tuesday, following a “media and stakeholder analysis triggered by allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud.”

That might dent the Adani Group’s sustainability credentials and could affect investor sentiment, Freitas said.

Adani, who made a vast fortune mining coal and trading before expanding into construction, power generation, manufacturing and media, was Asia’s richest man and the world’s third wealthiest before the troubles began with Hindenburg’s report.

By Friday, his net worth had halved to $61 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, where he dropped to the 21st spot worldwide.

He has said little publicly since the troubles began, though in a video address after Adani Enterprises canceled its already fully subscribed share offering he promised to repay investors. The company has said it is reviewing its fundraising plans.

Hindenburg’s report said it was betting against seven publicly listed Adani companies, judging them to have an “85% downside, purely on a fundamental basis owing to sky-high valuations.” Other issues in the report included concerns over debt, alleged use of offshore shell companies to artificially raise share prices and past investigations into fraud.

Adani’s speedy, debt-led expansion in recent years caused his net worth to shoot up nearly 2,000%. Even before last week, critics said his ascent was aided by his apparent close ties to Modi and his government. Analysts say he has been successful at aligning his priorities with those of the government by investing in key sectors, but point out that he also has major infrastructure projects in states that are ruled by opposition parties.

“The question now turns to the future of the Adani Group and how they will grow,” said Aveek Mitra, founder of Avekset Financial Advisory.

As a company heavily involved in infrastructure — from airports and ports to highways — it needs financing to grow in order to service its debt, which stands at $30 billion, out of which $9 billion is from Indian banks.

Adani may be able to sell some assets and continue its expansion, but at a much slower pace than earlier, Mitra said.

“Banks, financial institutions and investors will think five times before investing now,” he added.

Associated Press writer Ashok Sharma contributed to this report.

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Ottawa expands price caps to Russian petroleum products to reduce revenues

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OTTAWA — The federal Finance Department says Canada is joining its fellow G-7 countries plus Australia to expand caps on Russian oil to include seaborne petroleum products from that country.

The department says the maximum price for seaborne Russian-origin petroleum will be US $100 per barrel for “premium-to-crude” products as of Sunday, and US $45 for “discount-to-crude” products.

It says in a press release the new caps build on a Russian crude oil price limit announced in December, adding both moves will weaken President Vladimir Putin’s ability to fund the war against Ukraine.

The Department of Finance says the caps will be enforced by prohibiting buyers who do not abide by the price caps from obtaining services from companies in the G7 or Australia.

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It says the price cap mechanism has been designed to reduce Russian revenues while recognizing the importance of stable energy markets and minimizing negative economic effects.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says Russian oil revenues have already declined since the first price cap took effect and the additional price caps “will be another blow to Putin’s war chest.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2023.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

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Adani crisis ignites India contagion fears, credit warnings – Al Jazeera English

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  1. Adani crisis ignites India contagion fears, credit warnings  Al Jazeera English
  2. Indian tycoon Adani hit by more losses, calls for probe  CP24
  3. Adani Flagship Shelves $122 Million Bond Plan After Market Rout  BNN Bloomberg
  4. How Adani selloff stacks up against the biggest stock collapses  Deccan Herald
  5. Adani response to Hindenburg report: Embattled corporations invoking nationalism, or national sentiment, is not unheard of  The Indian Express
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

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