The Korea Herald


Bithumb to push for IPO in 2025

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Nov. 13, 2023 - 16:02

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Bithumb's logo (Bithumb) Bithumb's logo (Bithumb)

Bithumb, one of South Korea's four major cryptocurrency exchanges, is preparing to become the first cryptocurrency exchange to go public in Korea, in a move to expand its share in the market currently dominated by its larger peer, Upbit.

"We selected Samsung Securities as our manager for initial public offering at the end of (October). We aim to go public during the second half of 2025," a Bithumb official said on Monday.

The company is primarily considering a listing on Korea's second bourse, Kosdaq, but it is also open to the possibility of a listing on the main Kospi market.

This marks Bithumb's first IPO attempt, although there were rumors in 2020 that the company was considering an IPO, but the company denied them at the time.

Through this IPO process, Bithumb aims to enhance market trust in its operations by undergoing a verification process to ensure its soundness in corporate governance, management transparency and internal control systems.

"Our IPO is not about raising funds. Many people have doubts about cryptocurrency exchanges because they perceive them as not being transparent," the company official said.

The official highlighted that being the first cryptocurrency exchange in Korea to enter the “regulatory framework” is a factor that can help gain market trust.

Industry insiders also see that Bithumb's IPO goal is to raise market trust as the company currently holds over 400 billion won ($302 million) in financial product assets as of the first half of the year, which is evidence of the fact that it does not need to raise funds at present.

The move is also seen as a strategy to narrow the gap with Upbit, the largest domestic exchange.

Upbit currently dominates the Korean market with a share of over 80 percent. Bithumb's market share stands at around 15-20 percent. Bithumb tried to boost its market share by offering fee-free trading for all cryptocurrencies starting on Nov. 4, but the impact has been limited.

Meanwhile, as part of the IPO drive, Lee Jung-hoon, former chairman of Bithumb and Bithumb Holdings, has returned to Bithumb Holding’s board.

Bithumb Holdings holds a 73.56 percent stake in Bithumb and Lee is the de facto biggest shareholder of this holdings company.

On the other hand, Lee Sang-jun, Bithumb Holdings' CEO, who had been accused of accepting bribes from cryptocurrency companies in exchange for listing their tokens on Bithumb, has stepped down.

Industry insiders view this decision as an effort to minimize legal risks in preparation for the IPO.

The new CEO of Bithumb Holdings, Lee Jae-won, is a close associate of Lee Jung-hoon. It is anticipated that the new CEO will take a leading role in spearheading efforts for Bithumb's successful IPO.