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FTX: Cryptocurrency market rocked by near-collapse of exchange

The digital assets market has been rocked by the near-collapse of one of the world's biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, FTX.

On Tuesday, FTX struck a bailout deal with larger rival Binance after a surge in withdrawals caused a "significant liquidity crunch".

Concerns about FTX's financial health reportedly triggered $6bn (£5.2bn) of withdrawals in just three days.

Binance says it agreed to buy FTX's non-US unit, pending due diligence.

FTX's founder Sam Bankman-Fried and Binance's chief executive Changpeng "CZ" Zhao are two of the most powerful people in the cryptocurrency market and high-profile rivals.

The pressure on FTX came in part from Mr Zhao, who tweeted on Sunday that Binance would sell its holdings of FTX's digital token, known as FTT.

"Due to recent revelations that have come to light, we have decided to liquidate any remaining FTT on our books," he said. FTT has lost almost 80% of its value this week.

On Tuesday Mr Zhao tweeted, "This afternoon, FTX asked for our help. There is a significant liquidity crunch."

Binance said it had signed a letter of intent to buy the firm but had "the discretion to pull out from the deal at any time".

Also on Twitter Mr Bankman-Fried said: "Our teams are working on clearing out the withdraw backlog as is. This will clear out liquidity; all assets will be covered 1:1."

"The important thing is that customers are protected... We are in the best of hands," he added.

Mr Bankman-Fried also noted that FTX's US business was a separate company and "not currently impacted by this".

Analysis box by Joe Tidy, Cyber reporter
Analysis box by Joe Tidy, Cyber reporter

The cryptocurrency world is full of big personalities and Sam Bankman-Fried is one of the biggest.

Since the "cryptocrash" in the spring, the young, outspoken, owner of FTX has been a beacon of hope to investors large and small.

While other companies have faltered, Bankman-Fried seemed to be thriving.

In the last six months, the 30-year-old had given out generous rescue packages for struggling firms, secured lucrative acquisitions and taken part in high-profile media interviews.

As revelations about his company's fragile finances came to light in reporting by CoinDesk, those outspoken interviews are now coming back to bite him.

"More crypto exchanges will fail," he said in one interview adding that some firms are "secretly insolvent".

Now it seems his company joins the growing list of cryptocurrency businesses that have failed thanks to a recurring problem - a lack of cash reserves.

FTX is not the first firm to succumb to the so-called "crypto winter" we are in but it is by far the largest.

"This is a black swan event that adds more fears in the crypto space. This cold winter for crypto now takes on more fear," Dan Ives, senior equity analyst at Wedbush Securities told the BBC.

The news sent shockwaves through the digital assets market, with cryptocurrencies falling sharply.

Bitcoin fell by more than 10% to hit the lowest level since November 2020.

Meanwhile, online trading platform Robinhood lost more than 19% of its stock market value, while cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase fell by 10%.

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