SEOUL (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - A consortium led by a prominent Seoul plastic surgeon purchased a controlling stake in South Korea's largest cryptocurrency exchange, reports said on Friday (Oct 12).
Singapore-based BK Global Consortium bought a 50-per cent stake plus one share in Bithumb, the country's biggest virtual currency exchange, from shareholder BTC Holdings for about 400 billion won (S$486 million), Yonhap news agency and other South Korean media said, citing industry sources.
The hyper-wired country has emerged as one of the world's top bitcoin markets, at one point accounting for more than 20 per cent of global bitcoin transactions - about 10 times the country's share of the global economy. But South Korean exchanges have been hit by a series of attacks by hackers who stole millions of dollars, contributing to the market losing steam as prices tumbled.
Bithumb has more than a million customers but suffered a devastating hacking attack in June that left more than US$30 million worth of cryptocurrency stolen.
Cryptocurrencies have plunged since the end of 2017, when bitcoin hit a record high near US$20,000, having surged from less than US$1,000 just 11 months earlier. The unit is now worth around US$6,210.
The Seoul government has banned initial coin offerings and is working on legislation to regulate virtual currency exchanges.
The BK consortium is an investment group led by Kim Byung-gun, a high-profile plastic surgeon who founded BK Plastic Surgery Hospital, a major clinic in Seoul that also has operations in Singapore.
Bithumb, ranked by CoinMarketCap.com as the world's third-largest crypto exchange by reported trading value, posted 218.6 billion won of operating profit in the first half and 39.3 billion won of net income, according to Vidente Co, which holds an indirect stake in Bithumb's operator.