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Crypto lender Celsius stops withdrawals, fuels market slump

Crypto lender Celsius stops withdrawals, fuels market slump
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Celsius Network Ltd paused withdrawals, swaps and transfers on its platform, fueling a broad cryptocurrency selloff and prompting a competitor to announce a potential bid for its assets. Crypto markets slumped after the Celsius announcement.

(June 13): Crypto lender Celsius Network Ltd paused withdrawals, swaps and transfers on its platform, fueling a broad cryptocurrency selloff and prompting a competitor to announce a potential bid for its assets. 

Crypto markets slumped after the Celsius announcement, with Bitcoin dropping as much as 10% to the lowest level since December 2020 and other major tokens like Ether also falling sharply. Celsius’s CEL token was down 51% to 18.9 cents as of 2:11 p.m. in Hong Kong, according to pricing data site CoinGecko.

Doubts about the sky-high yields backing products such as those Celsius offers have intensified after the collapse of the Terra ecosystem in May, and as tighter monetary policy across the world curbs demand for riskier assets. The CEL token promises “actual financial rewards,” including as much as 30% extra returns weekly, according to its website.

Nexo, a London-based competitor, announced on Twitter that it’s ready to buy any “remaining qualifying assets” of Celsius, which it defined as “mainly their collateralized loan portfolio.” Nexo later published a letter of intent outlining the offer on Twitter. A Nexo spokeswoman confirmed the tweets.  

Nexo@Nexo

Nexo is in а solid liquidity and equity position to readily acquire any remaining qualifying assets of Celsius, mainly their collateralized loan portfolio. We are putting together an offer to Celsius to that accord and will communicate it publicly. 5/

Sent via Twitter Web App.

Nexo also said it had reached out to Celsius to offer support, “but our help was refused.” The firm has a “strong liquidity and equity position,” a spokeswoman said by email without giving details. Celsius didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Nexo’s statement.  

A little over a day before announcing the halt, Celsius Chief Executive Officer Alex Mashinsky appeared to counter speculation about a freeze on withdrawals, tweeting “Mike do you even know one person who has a problem withdrawing from Celsius?” in response to a post by Mike Dudas, a crypto investor and co-founder of The Block.

In announcing the move, Celsius said: “We are taking this action today to put Celsius in a better position to honor, over time, its withdrawal obligations.” It added that users will continue to accrue rewards during the pause.

.@CelsiusNetwork is pausing all withdrawals, Swap, and transfers between accounts. Acting in the interest of our community is our top priority. Our operations continue and we will continue to share information with the community.

— Celsius (@CelsiusNetwork) June 13, 2022

The announcement landed in the midst of turmoil in crypto markets, with worse-than-expected US inflation data on Friday stoking expectations of faster interest rate increases, hitting riskier assets like digital tokens. Bitcoin has tumbled 47% this year, while Ether has lost about two-thirds of its value. 

“The Celsius news added fuel to the fire, adding to the uncertainty in the market,” said Vijay Ayyar, vice president of corporate development and international at crypto platform Luno. “There is a lot of pressure on prices as we go into the week of Fed decision coupled with concerns on the protocols offering high-yield products.”

Tokens linked to lending and borrowing protocols underperformed on Monday, with their overall value down 10% compared with a 6.4% drop in the broader crypto universe, according to CoinGecko. Celsius peers Aave, Maple and Compound slumped 12%, 15% and 13% respectively.

Ethereum blockchain data shows that the largest single digital wallet holding CEL tokens is a wallet that belongs to Celsius itself, with more than 184 million CEL tokens, or 26.6% of the total supply in circulation. Mashinsky clarified in a weekend tweet that Celsius hadn’t been selling the token. 

Alex Mashinsky@Mashinsky

Replying to Ran NeuNer@cryptomanran Dylan LeClair ????@DylanLeClair_

Ran, no need for a debate Dylan just did not know we have published our wallets for the past 5 years and anyone can see we were not selling CEL. 
 
see at the bottom of this page... 
celsius.network/cel-token-expl…

Sent via Twitter Web App.

The collapse of the TerraUSD stablecoin and its sister token Luna in early May spawned widespread skepticism of the juicy returns crypto lenders like Celsius and decentralized-finance platforms have been promising investors. Anchor, a project linked to the Terra ecosystem, had offered yields of roughly 20% before TerraUSD, or UST, crashed.

“The plunge of Celsius’s token $CEL seems to be a realization of the contagion risk of UST/LUNA into similar financial tools,” said Burak Tamac, senior analyst for regulatory and on-chain at CryptoQuant.