Morgan Stanley rumored to be eyeing stake in top Korean exchange Bithumb

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According to Korean media, U.S.-based multinational investment banking giant Morgan Stanley is rumored to be negotiating the acquisition of a significant share in leading Korean cryptocurrency exchange, Bithumb.

The news was reported on March 18 by Aju News, with Bithumb reportedly in discussions with major Bithumb shareholder, Bident — who owns a roughly 10% stake in Bithumb Korea.

A March 19 article from leading local search engine Naver states that Morgan Stanley is planning to invest between 300 and 500 billion Korean won ($254 million to $441 million). The report cited an anonymous senior Bithumb representative as stating, “Morgan Stanley participated in the acquisition of Bithumb.”

“The reason Morgan Stanley used Bident is because it understood that Bident has the right to negotiate a preferred sale to acquire Bithumb Holdings,” said a second anonymous source familiar with the matter.

Crypto analyst Joseph Young shared the news to Twitter, noting Bithumb is targeting a $2 billion valuation.

The news comes two days after Cointelegraph reported on an “internal memo” from Morgan Stanley announcing the firm will launch three funds enabling Bitcoin ownership for wealthy customers with “an aggressive risk tolerance.”

Eligible clients must be accredited investors and hold at least $2 million worth of capital with the company. Minimum investments into the funds are $5 million.

Commenting on the news, Devin Ryan of U.S. investment bank JMP Securities predicted Morgan Stanley’s crypto-friendly funds will prompt other financial institutions to explore offering their clients exposure to digital assets.

“Motivations range from missing the opportunity at best, or at worst, seeing business disruption if clients decide better alternatives exist, which could negatively impact growth or competitive positioning,” Ryan said.

Morgan Stanley did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.