JUL 11, 2023
Crypto Exchange Loss Deters Temasek from Investing in Crypto Firms
Singapore’s state-owned investor Temasek has ruled out investing in crypto companies for now, following a $275 million loss in the bankrupt US crypto exchange FTX.
Regulatory uncertainty concerns
Temasek’s Chief Investment Officer Rohit Sipahimalani said in a CNBC interview on Tuesday that the regulatory uncertainty in the crypto sector made it very difficult for the fund to make another investment in an exchange.
“There’s a lot of regulatory uncertainty in this environment. And I do think that it will be very difficult for us to make another investment and exchange in the middle of all this regulatory uncertainty,” Sipahimalani said.
He added that Temasek was not interested in investing in cryptocurrencies, but rather in exchanges that could generate fee-based revenue without taking balance sheet or trading risks. In May, it was reported that Temasek had invested in algorithmic currency system, Array. However, the global investment company was quick to deny those reports.
“We’ve never been looking to invest in cryptocurrencies. Even the investment in FTX, we’ll be talking about investing in an exchange, which allowed us to get fee-based revenue without thinking [of] balance sheet risk or any trading risks,” he said. However, he said that Temasek would not be comfortable investing in exchanges given the way things are right now, and that it would depend on the right regulatory framework and investment opportunity.
“If you have the right regulatory framework, and we are comfortable with it, and you have the right investment opportunity, there’s no reason for us to not to look at it,” he said. Temasek’s FTX investment was part of its early-stage investment strategy, where it invests in new disruptive technologies and tries to find the next winners, Sipahimalani said.
But the strategy backfired when FTX filed for bankruptcy in November, with more than 1.4 million creditors and billions of dollars in liabilities, according to bankruptcy filings.
Temasek wrote down its $275 million investment in FTX to zero soon after the collapse of the exchange. However, the bigger concern for the company is the posting of its worst returns since 2016 amid macroeconomic and geopolitical challenges. In the financial year ending in March 2023, the investing behemoth posted a $7.3 billion loss.
The FTX loss sparked criticism from Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who called it “disappointing” and damaging for Singapore’s reputation. And that is the greater issue for Temasek relative to FTX.
The amount of that particular loss is not that significant, given the size of the company and the scale of losses incurred elsewhere. The issue has been the reputational damage that the company has experienced as a direct consequence. Temasek maintains that it carried out competent due diligence, as have all of the venture capital investors who have all had their FTX investments wiped out.
Further details on that due diligence are likely to emerge as Temasek, alongside many other leading investors in FTX, is being sued by creditors on the basis that they gave credence to what transpired to be a fraud. Temasek announced in May that it would cut the salaries of the staff responsible for the FTX investment, after conducting an internal review of the deal.