The Korea Herald


Crypto exchanges see sales surge amid hope for mega deals

By Park Ga-young

Published : March 24, 2021 - 16:40

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Bithumb and Upbit logos Bithumb and Upbit logos

Amid months of bullish cryptocurrency markets, digital coin trading volume is enjoying a stellar performance, raising expectations for a high market valuation of their businesses.

The country’s two largest crypto exchange operators -- Dunamu and Bithumb Korea -- both recorded a hike in sales and revenue last year, backed by increased transactions from November, when the largest digital coin Bitcoin rose above 20 million won ($17,640) for the first time in 34 months.

Dunamu, the operator of the largest cryptocurrency exchange, also recorded multiple-digit growth last year. The company saw a 26 percent jump in sales to 176.6 billion won while its revenue jumped 391.1 percent to 46.4 billion won year-on-year. Dunamu’s sales include the company’s trading platform of unlisted companies, but the largest portion of sales is attributed to crypto trading fees.

According to Vident‘s annual report, Bithumb Korea’s sales were 219 billion won last year, up 51.4 percent from 2019. Net profit soared 873.5 percent from 13.1 billion won to 127.4 billion won during the same period. Vident owns 10.3 percent in Bithumb Korea and 34.24 percent in Bithumb Holdings, which is the largest shareholder of Bithumb Korea.

Another gauge of crypto exchanges’ growth is the number of new accounts at three commercial banks that established partnerships with the country’s four largest crypto exchanges. Shinhan, NH Nonghyup and K bank fetched a combined 1.4 million new accounts in January alone, a 31 percent increase from the same month last year. K bank, the only local lender that issues real-name accounts for Upbit users, added 2.34 trillion won in savings balance, 50 percent up from January.

“There began an increase in trading from last November. If high trading volume continues throughout this year, cryptocurrency exchanges will enjoy a stellar performance this year,” an official at one of the four largest exchanges said.

According to data from the Financial Services Commission earlier this month, the total transactions at the four exchanges dealing with digital coins reached 445 trillion won from January 1 to February 25. The figure already exceeded the transaction volume of all of 2020, which was 356.2 trillion. On daily basis, the average trading volume was 7.94 trillion won a day during the aforementioned period.

Meanwhile, the growth in crypto exchanges is raising expectations for enhanced valuation for their businesses.

Bithumb, which has been seeking a buyer since August last year, is getting renewed attention from investors hoping to buy a stake in the company. Local media reported NXC, the holdings company of game maker Nexon, Naver, Visa Card and Binance are among companies that expressed interest in Bithumb.

Morgan Stanley, which was also reportedly interested in Bithumb, issued an announcement on Monday and denied the reports.

An analyst from boutique research firm Research Arum said that Dunamu’s valuation could increase once Coinbase, the No.1 crypto exchange in the US, goes public this spring.

“If Coinbase provides the market capitalization of 100 trillion won, Upbit could get at least one-tenth of that valuation considering the high trading volume there,” analyst Choi Sung-hwan said in a report.

By Park Ga-you(