Binance Holdings Ltd. founder and CEO Zhao “CZ” Changpeng said the world’s biggest digital-asset exchange may spend more than $1 billion on acquisitions and investments this year despite what is shaping up to be a prolonged crypto winter.
Binance has committed $325 million to 67 projects so far this year, compared with $140 million for 73 projects in 2021. That doesn’t take into account a possible more than $200 million investment in the Forbes media company and $500 million in financing for Elon Musk’s on-again acquisition of Twitter Inc., which could carry into next year if it gets done at all.
While fellow crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried has been dubbed the new John Pierpont Morgan for buying up assets from high-profile distressed lenders and brokers like Voyager Digital Ltd., Zhao has taken a more subdued approach by focusing on areas such as decentralized finance and nonfungible tokens. Binance, which had also bid for Voyager, hasn’t purchased any distressed crypto assets this year.
“We did look at a lot of lenders in recent months, because that’s where all the issues are,” Zhao said in an interview this week. “Many of them, they just take a user’s money and give it to somebody else. There’s not a lot of intrinsic value. In that case, what’s to acquire? We want to see real products that people use.”
In the meantime, Binance continues to deal with long-running industry issues such as software hacks and tightening regulation. Online pirates stole the equivalent of $568 million on Thursday by exploiting the exchange’s Binance Coin. Zhao took to social media to say the incident is now contained and told users that their funds are safe.
Binance is also been pouring money into the ecosystem for NFTs and fan tokens and into traditional payment-service providers, Zhao said. Binance has remained profitable this year even with prices of most cryptocurrencies down more than 50% this year, Zhao said, without being more specific.
“DeFi works,” Zhao said. “NFTs are a lot more than selling pictures of monkeys. NFT use cases have not largely been well built — NFTs for tickets, for university degrees. I think the technology will stay.”
In the coming months, Binance might also be interested in acquiring minority stakes in traditional ecommerce and gaming companies, he said.
Binance has a $7 billion fund that’s been investing in deals, and it has a 30-plus member team focused on mergers-and-acquisitions, he said.
“Overall at a high level, during the bear market we’ll see more market consolidation,” Zhao said. “There’s a lot of risks and a lot of pain, but also a lot of opportunity.”
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