Bithumb logo on laptop

Bithumb eyes IPO in 2025 amid regulatory hurdles

South Korean-based digital currency exchange is eyeing an initial public offering (IPO) in a pioneering move that could make it the first exchange to go public in the country.

Bithumb is targeting a 2025 launch date for its IPO ambitions, taking preliminary steps to achieve regulatory compliance. Officials from the exchange noted that the firm’s primary target is a listing on KOSDAQ but is not against the possibility of a listing on South Korea’s KOSPI market.

The exchange has onboarded Samsung Securities to handle the IPO process, with the company clarifying that the proposed IPO is not to raise funds but to “build market trust.” With over $302 million in assets, Bithumb has a healthy bank balance but ranks behind Upbit, South Korea’s largest digital asset exchange with a market share of 80%.

“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,” said one Bithumb executive. “Our IPO is not about raising funds. Many people have doubts about cryptocurrency exchanges because they perceive them as not being transparent.”

Previous attempts to lure in users, including introducing zero-fee trading, failed to achieve the intended results.

Bithumb hopes to build significant market trust through the stringent regulatory process of the IPO to snag market share from its rival, Upbit. The IPO process is expected to stress test Bithumb’s management transparency, internal control systems, and corporate governance processes.

Ahead of the IPO, Lee Sang-jun, former Bithumb Holdings’ CEO accused of receiving bribes to list tokens, has stepped down from the company’s board to guarantee regulatory clarity. Former chairman of Bithumb Lee Jung-hoon returns to the board and is widely expected to play a significant role in the company’s IPO drive.

In 2020, news of Bithumb’s planned IPO was dismissed as rumors, while plans for an FTX acquisition fell through the cracks in 2022. Since then, the company has faced legal, regulatory, financial, and technical challenges, threatening its long-term survival and place among South Korea’s big four exchanges.

Another day, another trouble

In early 2023, Bithumb was the subject of a probe by South Korea’s National Tax Service (NTS) over allegations of tax evasion, leading to a raid of the exchange’s offices by NTS operatives. In the weeks after the raid, South Korean law enforcement moved to arrest and investigate a handful of Bithumb executives for offenses bordering on fraud and price manipulation.

The company was ordered to pay damages to customers following a service outage in 2017 in a six-year-long case, putting a dent in the company’s finances.

“The burden or the cost of technological failures should be shouldered by the service operator, not the service users who pay commission for the service,” read the judgment.

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