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Mt. Gox begins repaying bitcoin to creditors a decade after exchange’s collapse — what it means

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The trustee for Mt. Gox, the Japanese bitcoin exchange that collapsed into bankruptcy a decade ago, on Friday said that the company has begun to make payments in bitcoin and in bitcoin cash to some of its creditors.

The announcement added that repayments to other users of the hacked exchange would be “promptly made” if they meet certain conditions, including undergoing account verification, as well as subscribing to one of the designated digital asset exchanges through which the bankruptcy estate is facilitating disbursements in digital tokens.

“We ask eligible rehabilitation creditors to wait for a while,” continues the statement.

The price of bitcoin has plunged nearly 6% in the last 24 hours.

Customers of the Tokyo-based exchange have been waiting 10 years to get their money back.

What is Mt. Gox?

Once the world’s largest crypto trading venue, Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy in February 2014 after a series of heists that saw up to 950,000 bitcoin — worth upward of $58 billion at today’s prices — vanish.

Mt. Gox blamed the bitcoin disappearance on a bug in the cryptocurrency’s framework. While users were receiving incomplete transaction messages when accessing the exchange, coins may have actually been illicitly moved by hackers out of their accounts, Mt. Gox said.

After declaring bankruptcy, 140,000 of the missing bitcoin were recovered — which means that roughly $9 billion worth of bitcoin will be returned to owners, in today’s prices. Bitcoin was trading at roughly $600 at the time of the bankruptcy. Today it’s worth over $54,000 — an almost 9,000% increase.

According to data from Arkham Intelligence, on Thursday and Friday, Mt. Gox moved billions of dollars in bitcoin from its crypto wallets ahead of the repayment memo.

Over 47,000 bitcoins worth $2.7 billion were moved out of an offline cryptocurrency wallet associated with Mt. Gox, Arkham Intelligence said Friday.

A portion of the funds, worth $84.9 million, was sent to Japanese crypto exchange Bitbank, which is listed among the platforms supporting repayments to Mt. Gox users, according to Arkham. A further $63.6 million of bitcoin was sent to an unknown counterparty, which Arkham said was “likely a listed repayments exchange.”

Mt. Gox wallets continue to hold 138,985 bitcoins, worth around $7.5 billion at current prices, according to Arkham, meaning that billions of dollars worth of the cryptocurrency are still yet to be paid out.

How will this impact bitcoin?

Analysts previously told CNBC they expect the Mt. Gox repayment plan to lead to some heavy selling in bitcoin, although this is likely to be short-lived and precede further price gains later this year and in early 2025.

John Glover, chief investment officer of crypto lending firm Ledn, told CNBC the windfall for Mt. Gox users would likely translate to huge sales in bitcoin as investors look to lock in gains.

“Many will clearly cash out and enjoy the fact that having their assets stuck in the Mt. Gox bankruptcy was the best investment they ever made,” said Glover, who was previously a managing director at Barclays. “Some will clearly choose to take the money and run,” he said in emailed comments.

JPMorgan analysts said in a note last month that they expect Mt. Gox customers to sell some of their bitcoin to profit from seismic gains for the cryptocurrency.

“Assuming most of the liquidations by Mt. Gox creditors take place in July, [this] creates a trajectory where crypto prices come under … pressure in July, but start rebounding from August onwards,” they wrote.

Ultimately, the total sum owed to creditors — some 140,000 bitcoins — accounts for roughly 0.7% of the total 19.7 million bitcoin currently in circulation.

Analysts say this means that, even though it’s likely to impact prices, there’s enough liquidity available to cushion the blow of any intense selloff.

James Butterfill, head of research at CoinShares, told CNBC that the billions of dollars’ worth of bitcoin being traded on trusted exchanges daily this year suggests that “liquidity is sufficient to absorb these sales over the summer months.”

Jacob Joseph, research analyst at CCData, echoed that point, saying the markets are more than capable of absorbing the selling pressure.

“Moreover, a healthy part of the creditors are likely to take a 10% haircut on their holdings to receive the repayment early, and not all holdings are set to be liquidated on the open market, reducing the overall selling pressure,” he told CNBC by email.

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