China NFT Weekly: Ripple Effects of Crypto Market Crash

Digestible news on the latest developments across the fields of Web3, NFTs, blockchain, and metaverse in China and beyond, compiled for you every week by Pandaily.

This week: Crypto investor Sequoia Capital China raises $9 billion, Chinese beauty app Meitu records up to $52.3 million in net losses amid crypto market crash, Animoca Brands leads $32 million funding round for Web 3.0 gaming company Planetarium Labs, and more.

Crypto Investor Sequoia Capital China Raises $9 Billion

Sequoia Capital China, an affiliate of crypto-friendly venture capital firm, is close to raising nearly $9 billion to put into domestic startups, despite the effects of Beijing’s zero-Covid policies and a tech crackdown. Cointelegraph and the Financial Times first reported the story.

  • Sequoia China has reportedly exceeded its initial target of $8 billion, and the final amount is supposed to be the biggest pool of capital ever raised by a VC firm focused on Chinese tech startups.
  • Sequoia China plans to close the round within a week, with 50% of the funds being oversubscribed.
  • Sequoia China invests in many crypto tech companies, including troubled crypto lender Babel Finance, which halted withdrawals in mid-June during the latest crypto market crash.
  • While global institutional investors, including sovereign wealth funds, US college endowments, and pension funds, have largely pulled back from Chinese funds in the past year due to regulatory uncertainties, the world’s leading investment institutions such as Sequoia China and Hillhouse are still raising money.
  • In addition to regulatory concerns, global investors are also worried that investments in Chinese tech startups could be hit by the potential fallout from close ties between Moscow and Beijing.
  • China-focused funds have struggled to raise money from global investors this year, raising just $4.8 billion in the first six months of 2022, according to the Financial Times, citing data from the financial data firm Preqin. (Cointelegraph, Financial Times)

READ MORE: All of our stories on Sequoia China Capital!

Chinese Beauty App Meitu Records Up to $52.3M in Net Losses Amid Crypto Market Crash

Meitu, best known as the developer behind popular Chinese selfie apps Meitu App and Beuaty Cam, warns investors that its losses could widen by up to 154% in 2H22 due to its holdings in crypto, which suffered a meltdown in the past two months. Fortune and SCMP first reported this story.

  • The Hong Kong-listed company stated in a filing last week that its net losses for the first half of 2022 could range between $41 million and $52.3 million, while the net loss was $20.57 million during the same period last year.
  • Meitu pinned the mounting losses on the crashing value of its crypto assets, which include 940 Bitcoin and 31,000 Ether. The company purchased the assets for $49.5 million and $50.5 million, respectively, between March and April 2021.
  • The purchase came weeks before Chinese regulators banned financial institutions and payment companies from trading crypto in May 2021. The Chinese government later expanded the scope of its crackdown to include all transactions involving cryptocurrency.
  • Meitu has not bought or sold any crypto since China’s latest crypto ban, the company said in its filing.
  • Meitu is one of the world’s top holders of cryptocurrenvy, ranking 12th among publicly-traded companies worldwide, according to Fortune, citing data from CoinGeck.
  • The latest crypto market crash is fueled by sharp increases in interest rates in the United States, which led to recession fears and a crypto sell-off.
  • Meitu slumped 10.6% to 93 HK cents in Monday trading, but the company argued that the losses will have “no material impact” on its cashflow if the crypto market recovers. (Fortune, SCMP)

Animoca Brands Leads $32M Funding Round for Web3 Gaming Company Planetarium Labs

Planetarium Labs, a builder of community-driven blockchain games, has raised $32 million in a Series A funding round led by Animoca Brands. CoinDesk and VentureBeat first reported the story.

  • Krust Universe, WeMade, and Samsung Next also participated in the funding round. Krust Universe is the investment arm of South Korean tech conglomerate Kakao, and WeMade is the publisher of the play-to-earn game Mir4.
  • Planetarium Labs will use the proceeds to build out its network with tools for gaming and player governance, co-founder and CEO Kijun Seo wrote to CoinDesk in an email.
  • Planetarium’s gaming ecosystem is built on Libplanet, a software development kit for creating decentralized online games.
  • The Libplanet technology is used in the open-source online role-playing game Nine Chronicles, which has more than 300,000 users and backers that include Animoca Brands, Binance Labs and Ubisoft.
  • “We strongly believe that the future is massive decentralized worlds in an open metaverse, which is why we are delighted to support Planetarium Labs’ vision of community-centric blockchain games that empower players with creative freedom and full digital rights,” Animoca Brands’ founder and CEO Yat Siu said in a statement.
  • Animoca Brands is a Hong Kong-based gaming software developer and venture capital firm. Its portfolio investments totaled more than $1.5 billion across 340 investments as of the end of April.(CoinDesk, VentureBeat)

READ MORE: Read all of our stories on Animoca Brands!

Salary Payments in Tether Ruled as Illegal in China

Beijing’s Chaoyang District People’s Court has ruled that stablecoins like USDT cannot be used for salary payments, according to Cointelegraph, citing a report by local news agency Beijing Daily.

  • The news came several months after China’s blanket ban on crypto in September, which barred all transactions involving cryptocurrency.
  • The Chinese court stated that crypto like USDT cannot circulate in the market as a currency, and required all employers to make payments to their workers using the country’s official renminbi (RMB).
  • The ruling came as part of a court case where an employee at a blockchain firm sued his employer for paying his salary and bonuses in USDT instead of RMB.
  • Citing China’s blanket crypto ban, the court said that digital currencies like USDT do not enjoy the same status as legal tender. As such, the court ordered the defendants to pay the plaintiff over 270,000 RMB ($40,000) in wages and bonuses.
  • Tether USDT is a major stablecoin pegged to the US dollar at a 1:1 ratio. It is backed by dollars held in US treasury reserves, cash deposits and other assets. (Cointelegraph)

Crypto Exchange CoinFlex Plans to Recover $84M

CoinFlex, a small crypto exchange focused on derivatives trading, said it has taken legal action to recover $84 million in losses from a single customer. Bloomberg and Mint first reported the story.

  • The company said it is also mulling a joint venture with another crypto firm to recover the losses.
  • CoinFlex halted withdrawals from its platform last month after a longtime investor, Roger Ver, failed to repay $47 million from a margin call.
    • A margin call is the collateral that a holder of a financial instrument (e.g. crypto) has to deposit with a counterparty (e.g. a brokerage) in order cover some or all of the risks that it poses to the counterparty.
  • “The individual first asked us to liquidate his account, but then continued to tell us for some considerable time afterwards that he wanted to send significant funds to the exchange to take physical delivery of the futures positions,” CoinFlex Co-Founders Sudhu Arumugam and Mark Lamb wrote in the post on Saturday, without mentioning Ver’s name. “It is clear to us now that he was wasting time and hoping for a bounce in the market that never materialized.”
  • The news came amid a crypto market crash that wiped nearly $2 trillion off the total value of cryptocurrencies.
  • CoinFlex revealed that there is a plan to raise enough outside funding in USDC, a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar, to relieve the liquidity crunch and resume withdrawals. (Bloomberg, Mint)

Hong Kong Securities Regulator Ashley Alder to Head the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority

Ashly Alder, the CEO of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), will become the next chair of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), starting in January 2023. CoinDesk and Cointelegraph first reported the story.

  • Alder will succeed interim FCA chair Richard Lloyd, who took office following Charles Randell’s departure in May.
  • The FCA became the UK’s authority for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism in 2020, bringing crypto companies within its remit.
  • Alder, a former lawyer, has led the Hong Kong securities regulator since 2011. He oversaw the introduction of the territory’s digital assets rules and also chaired the International Organization of Securities Commissions, or IOSCO.
  • Hong Kong is among the world’s freest economies for traditional finance. However, the same rules do not apply to crypto.
  • Industry stakeholders are concerned with the region’s long-term potential given Beijing’s growing influence.
  • In addition, the region’s strict Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASP) rules barred retail investors from investing in the space.
  • Alder said in his acceptance to the new position that he hopes the financial watchdog would help to “chart the UK’s post-Brexit future as a global financial centre which continues to support innovation and competition through its own world-leading regulatory standards.” (CoinDesk, Cointelegraph)

That’s it for this week’s newsletter – thanks for reading! As always, we welcome any feedback on how to make this newsletter better. Write to us at [email protected]. See you again next week!