The four — Upbit, Korbit, Coinone and Bithumb — were able to apply for registration by undertaking the long list of anti-money laundering and security measures required by financial authorities. As of Tuesday, Upbit and Korbit have received approval from the Financial Services Commission, while Coinone and Bithumb are awaiting the outcome of their registration of virtual asset businesses.
The increasingly strict grip on the virtual asset industry by government bodies comes as cryptocurrencies have experienced a second boom that has boosted their profits. Now granted or to be granted with the approval for normal business operations, experts say they are expected to become market blue chips if they succeed in carrying out initial public offerings in the coming years — becoming a potential new jackpot for investors who made large bets even before the market had taken shape.
The market valuation of Dunamu, operator of Upbit, the largest among the four, is estimated at 12 trillion won ($10.2 billion), based on the value of over-the-counter stocks. Market valuations are yet to come for its smaller rivals. But expectations are high, as they are all enjoying a fruitful year.
Upbit has brought in 10 billion won a day this year. Dunamu’s operating profit and revenue stood at 1.87 trillion won and 2.02 trillion won, respectively, in the first half of 2021. Meanwhile, Bithumb made a net profit of 600 billion won also in the first half of the year alone. Coinone reported 94.3 billion won in net profit during the same period. After two years of losses, Korbit turned around in 2020 with 5.8 billion won in net profit and is expected to record a jump like the other major crypto exchanges.
Dunamu’s largest shareholders are its founders — Chairman Song Chi-hyuong, who owns 26.31 percent, and Vice President Kim Hyeong-nyeon, with 13.51 percent. Kakao and its affiliates hold around a 19 percent share.
Bithumb’s largest shareholder is Vident, a Kosdaq-listed digital broadcasting equipment developer and maker, which has 10.3 percent ownership of Bithumb Korea and 34.2 percent of Bithumb.
However, Lee Jung-hun, former chairman of Bithumb Holdings, has secured a total of 65 percent, which encompasses both his personal shares and those that he acquired via two paper companies established in Hong Kong — DAA and BTHMB Holdings.
Vident first acquired a stake in Bithumb in 2017 and increased its holding gradually. This year, other companies ranging from a game maker to a bio company directly and indirectly jumped in to secure stakes in Bithumb.
In particular, Wemade, creator of hit game series The Legend of Mir, carried out an investment…