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Chinese Crypto Tycoon-Backed Bitdeer Buys Asia’s ‘Fort Knox’

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese crypto billionaire Jihan Wu is expanding into the physical asset space.

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Wu’s Bitdeer Technologies Holding Co. spent S$40 million ($28.4 million) buying Le Freeport, a maximum-security vault in Singapore, according to people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the transaction was private. Dubbed Asia’s Fort Knox, Wu acquired the repository for fine art, precious gems, and gold and silver bars, from shareholders led by Swiss art dealer and founder Yves Bouvier, the people said.

A representative for Bouvier declined to comment. Wu confirmed the transaction in a text message in response to queries from Bloomberg News. The purchase took place in July, according to records with the accounting regulator.

Wu’s acquisition ends years of Bouvier’s troubled attempts to sell Freeport which is located near Changi Airport. Wu is considered one of the most influential people in cryptocurrency markets, having co-founded the world’s largest miner Bitmain Technologies Ltd. Wu, who has long-term residency in Singapore, relinquished control of the Beijing-based company early last year.

‘Fully Committed’

The price Wu paid represents a sharp discount to the S$100 million it cost to build the facility. Freeport opened in 2010 to fanfare as part of Singapore’s push to lure luxury collectors, wealth managers and bullion-trading banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS Group AG.

The low, flat building was designed by Swiss architects Benedicte Montant and Carmelo Stendardo and includes energy-saving features such as thermal insulation and vegetation-covered walls to help maintain the precise temperatures and humidity levels inside. A 38 meter-long sculpture of polished steel by Israeli artist Ron Arad greets visitors at the lobby once they’ve passed security checks and a body scan.

About three quarters of the total price went to creditors including DBS Group Holdings Ltd., according to one of the people. After repaying debt and costs, Bouvier, who held 70% of Freeport, got about S$5 million from the sale, together with other shareholders.

The new owners are “fully committed” to supporting the Freeport Group with a view to expanding and improving the facilities and services, according to a letter signed by Freeport’s Chief Executive Officer Lincoln Ng to reassure tenants that there would no disruptions.

Bitdeer is the sole shareholder of Straitdeer Pte., which in turn owns Asia Freeport Holdings Pte., the entity controlling Le Freeport, according to records with the accounting regulator. Asia Freeport reported a loss of S$14.3 million in 2018, based on the latest publicly available financial statement.

Wu, who turns 36 this year, controls Bitdeer, a cloud-mining service that was spun off from Bitmain. It operates proprietary mining data centers in the U.S. and Norway, and was seeking a US listing in a SPAC deal.

(updates with more details on facility in sixth paragraph and Wu in last paragraph.)

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