A crypto giant’s fate is in doubt
Devastation in the crypto market continued on Wednesday, after the giant crypto exchange Binance announced a bombshell deal to buy its embattled rival, FTX. (The deal excludes FTX’s American operations.) The entire market’s capitalization now stands at $900 billion, down from $3 trillion just one year ago, while major cryptocurrencies were down by double-digit percentages. The damage is largely contained within crypto; both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed up yesterday.
But investors fear that Binance won’t go through with the rescue plan, and that more pain awaits after their industry’s biggest Lehman-esque moment to date.
What happened? Binance, an early investor in FTX turned rival, said over the weekend that it planned to sell its holdings in FTT, a token used for trading on FTX’s platform — a stunning move that cast doubt on the financial health of FTX and its trading arm, Alameda Research. The token’s value has plunged by roughly 80 percent in the past 36 hours to just under $5.
Traders withdrew over $1.2 billion from FTX on Monday alone, according to the research firm Nansen. By Tuesday, FTX had stopped processing withdrawals; its chief executive, Sam Bankman-Fried, who was reportedly casting about for a financial lifeline from billionaires, finally turned to Binance for salvation.
Binance has cemented its dominance over crypto. It was already the largest exchange worldwide for digital currencies and derivatives; FTX’s trading volumes in September were just a fraction of Binance’s. Its founder, Changpeng Zhao — widely known as CZ — showed off his power by effectively kneecapping FTX and then swooping in with a rescue. “This elevates Zhao as the most powerful player in crypto,” Ilan Solot of the derivatives trader Marex Solutions told The Financial Times.
It’s a humbling downfall for Bankman-Fried, who in just three years rocketed from obscurity to become one of the best-known moguls in crypto, earning comparisons to Warren Buffett and J.P. Morgan. Months ago, Bankman-Fried sought to live up to the Morgan comparison, swooping in to bail out troubled crypto companies like Celsius and Voyager Digital (deals whose status is now unclear); he also became a frequent presence in Washington, calling for more regulation of the crypto industry, to the ire of CZ and other executives.
At the beginning of the year, FTX was valued at $32 billion, backed by heavyweight investors like BlackRock, SoftBank and Tiger Global. (Investors said yesterday they were blindsided by the deal.) The 30-year-old Bankman-Fried — known in the crypto world as S.B.F. — was said to have a net worth of over $16 billion. But a document leaked to CoinDesk purportedly showed that FTX and Alameda, whose finances had long been murky, were highly illiquid and financially vulnerable.
The crypto world fears other shoes will drop. Investors worry that CZ may yet pull out of his rescue deal: He noted on Tuesday that the transaction was nonbinding and subject to due diligence. Meanwhile, tokens associated with FTX, including Solana, have continued to plunge in value.
Other crypto players sought to distance themselves from the FTX meltdown. Brian Armstrong of Coinbase, the biggest U.S.-focused exchange, said FTX’s troubles appeared to arise from “risky business practices” that his company doesn’t engage in. Still, Coinbase shares fell nearly 11 percent yesterday.
And regulators say the news justifies more scrutiny of crypto companies. “This is a major market event for the digital asset sector,” said Joe Rotunda of the Texas State Securities Board Enforcement Division, which had already been investigating FTX.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Elon Musk sells billions more in Tesla stock to pay for his Twitter deal. He sold nearly $4 billion worth of shares in recent days, according to regulatory filings, bringing his total sales for the year to $36 billion. The electric carmaker’s shares were up slightly in premarket trading.
The United Nations seeks to end “sham” corporate net-zero pledges. Companies that claim to be trying to cut carbon emissions but invest in fossil fuels should be shamed, António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, said at COP27. Meanwhile, more rich countries pledged to pay poorer ones compensation for damage from climate change.
Disney reports a jump in streaming losses. The media giant said its direct-to-consumer unit — including Disney+ — doubled its third-quarter losses from a year ago, to $1.5 billion. But Disney said the quarter was the “peak” for losses, and noted it had added 12 million new subscribers.
TikTok lowers its worldwide revenue targets amid a spending slump. The video platform cut its sales goals by 20 percent after its advertising and e-commerce operations struggled, The Financial Times reports. TikTok also revamped its leadership in the United States.
Adidas cuts its profit forecast after breaking from Kanye West. The warning from the sportswear giant came weeks after it ended its highly profitable collaboration with the rapper now known as Ye. Separately, Adidas named Bjorn Gulden, the former head of Puma, as its next C.E.O.
The red wave that wasn’t
Republicans haven’t quite had the night they expected. As of 7 a.m. Eastern, Republicans were 21 seats shy of retaking control of the House. But leadership of the Senate remains up in the air after the Democrats flipped a seat in Pennsylvania. Here are the big highlights so far:
Pennsylvania: John Fetterman, the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor, beat Mehmet Oz in the closely watched Senate race. Political analysts now say Democrats need to win two of three hotly contested Senate races — in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, all currently held by Democrats — to maintain power in the chamber.
Georgia: The Senate contest looks like it’s headed for a runoff on Dec. 6, pitting the incumbent, Raphael Warnock, against his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker.
Governor races: Voters backed high-profile incumbents, including Kathy Hochul, Democrat of New York; Greg Abbott, Republican of Texas; and Tony Evers, Democrat of Wisconsin.
Ballot initiatives: Voters in Michigan approved making abortion access a right protected under the State Constitution. Those in Maryland and Missouri voted to legalize marijuana, though similar measures were rejected in Arkansas and North Dakota.
A rough night for Donald Trump: Several candidates that he endorsed, including in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, lost or were behind. And a potential rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, handily won re-election.
Meta slices through its work force
Facebook’s owner Meta will lay off 11,000 employees, equivalent to 13 percent of its work force, the company announced on Wednesday morning, in the biggest restructuring in the social media giant’s history. A slump in digital advertising and ballooning losses from its pivot to the metaverse have pushed the company to make a series of wide-ranging cuts.
In a note to employees, Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s co-founder and C.E.O., admitted that the company had hired too aggressively during the pandemic as homebound consumers spent more time socializing and shopping online. Meta mistakenly assumed this trend would continue: “I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that,” he wrote.
The company has begun cutting costs across its operations, “scaling back budgets, reducing perks, and shrinking our real estate footprint,” Zuckerberg wrote. The stock was up 3.7 percent in premarket trading, outperforming the Nasdaq.
The economic downturn is forcing companies across industries to shrink. Citigroup and Barclays are expected to lay off hundreds in their investment banking units, Bloomberg reports. And, according to Protocol, Salesforce could cut as many as 2,500 positions in the coming weeks as the activist investor Starboard Value seeks big changes in corporate strategy.
Exclusive: Keurig Dr Pepper buys stake in Athletic Brewing
Keurig Dr Pepper has invested $50 million in Athletic Brewing, the nonalcoholic beer company, as part of a $75 million fund-raise by Athletic, DealBook is first to report. It’s the beverage giant’s second foray into the nonalcoholic booze category — it announced a deal to acquire a nonalcoholic cocktail brand called Atypique this summer — and another sign of interest in this fast-growing category.
Athletic Brewing was founded in 2017 by Bill Shufelt, a former trader at the hedge fund Point72, and John Walker, a former craft brewer. It now sells its products — including lager, light beer and sparkling water — at retailers like Trader Joe’s. With its new backer, Athletic is looking to expand in Australia, France and Spain.
Sales of nonalcoholic beer are skyrocketing, growing almost 70 percent between 2016 and 2021 in the U.S., to about $670 million, according to Euromonitor. While that is still a tiny portion of the overall beer market, its popularity stands in stark contrast to overall sluggishness in beer sales, as the younger generation drinks less and cares more about its waistline. Beer giants like Heineken, Budweiser and Sam Adams have released nonalcoholic alternatives in the last five years.
It’s not just for recovering alcoholics or nondrinkers. Shufelt said 80 percent of his customers drink alcohol, and three-fourths are between the ages of 21 and 44. About half are women, he added.
THE SPEED READ
The private equity giants Apollo, Carlyle and KKR disclosed inquiries by regulators over their dealmakers’ use of messaging apps like WhatsApp for business. (Bloomberg)
Supreme Court justices are weighing a Pennsylvania law that requires companies to consent to being sued in its courts for conduct done anywhere. (NYT)
Kenya published some details of a 2014 loan it took out from China, potentially straining relations with the country’s biggest source of infrastructure financing. (NYT)
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