Crypto Billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried Inks BlockFi Deal, Eyes Distressed Miners Next

(Bloomberg) — Sam Bankman-Fried, the co-founder of crypto exchange FTX US who just signed a deal with BlockFi Inc., said he’s open to exploring acquisitions in the battered crypto-mining industry next.

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The move comes at a time when Bitcoin-mining companies are facing growing distress. The crypto billionaire is considering acquiring troubled crypto firms to stem potential credit contagion amid the prolonged bear market.

“When we think about the mining industry, they do play a little bit of role in the possible contagion spread, to the extent that there are miners that were collateralizing borrows with their mining rigs,” Bankman-Fried said Friday in an interview. “There might come along a really compelling opportunity for us — I definitely don’t want to discount that possibility.”

Bankman-Fried has acted as a lender of last resort during the recent crypto meltdown, with his trading firm, Alameda Research, providing credit lines to Voyager Digital Ltd. He stopped short when it came to Celsius Network, turning down a bailout request by the lender, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

While crypto mining wouldn’t fit into FTX’s core strategy, Bankman-Fried has been looking into whether there are “underwater miners” that could have some balance-sheet impact on crypto-lending firms, he said. On Friday, his exchange signed an agreement to inject capital into BlockFi with an option to purchase the crypto lender for as much as $240 million.

The bear market has made it difficult for crypto miners to raise capital and pay down debt stemming from their aggressive expansion over the last two years. As much as $4 billion of loans backed by crypto-mining equipment are coming under distress as some of the most-popular machines’ value has dropped by about 50% since last November, when crypto markets peaked.

As a result, merger-and-acquisition opportunities could arise. Marathon Digital Holdings Inc. Chief Executive officer Fred Thiel said in April that his company was open to the possibility of a sale at the right price.

Shares of top mining companies have dropped by more than 75% this year along with the decline in Bitcoin’s price. High energy costs and limited infrastructure capacity have also contributed to the price slump in the mining stocks.

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