Bitmain, one of the world’s biggest producers of cryptocurrency mining rigs, has divested from AntPool, the world’s largest crypto mining pool, likely as part of its plan for an initial public offering, Forkast.News has learned.
“After receiving shareholders’ approval in the first quarter, legal matters concerning AntPool’s divestiture were completed on May 1. Now we are engaged in follow-up business arrangements and will complete related activities as soon as possible,” according to a post on Bitmain’s official WeChat account.
AntPool used to be much larger. But since China began cracking down on crypto mining in the first half of this year, AntPool-owned hashrate also dropped by nearly half. However, AntPool still accounts for 17.56% of the total global hashrate and remains top-ranked in size, with Binance Pool and F2Pool in second and third place respectively, according to BTC.com data.
Bitmain said AntPool would independently conduct crypto mining pool business outside of China with the support from new shareholders. No details about AntPool’s new shareholders were disclosed. Instead, Bitmain will focus on crypto mining hardware as well as chip research and development.
Bitmian did not offer any reasons for its divestiture of AntPool. Some China watchers speculated that the move may be aimed at evading regulatory risk amid China’s clampdown on crypto mining. Since April, all of China’s Bitcoin mining hubs, including Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Yunnan and Xinjiang, have been banned from crypto mining or faced new restrictions. As a result, many Chinese crypto miners felt they had no choice but to move overseas. The large-scale crackdowns also caused the Bitcoin mining difficulty to freefall to the lowest point since January 2020.
Bitmain is not the only crypto company shedding its crypto mining business. BitDeer, another mining firm, also sold its mining pool earlier this year to BIT Mining, a U.S.-listed company that is new to crypto mining. BIT Mining used to be named 500.com, which was an online sports lottery company. But during the Bitcoin bull run earlier this year, 500.com decided to suddenly pivot to crypto mining as a business strategy. BIT Mining recently got rid of its money-losing lottery business altogether to focus on crypto mining.
A source familiar with the matter told Forkast.News that Bitmain’s divestiture of AntPool was part of its preparations for an initial public offering in the U.S.
“Bitmain wanted to go public even before the fight between the two co-founders of Bitmain. However, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission decided that the financial treatment of Bitmain’s mining pool business did not meet the listing requirements,” the source told Forkast. News.
Bitmain applied to list in Hong Kong in March 2019, but the listing did not go ahead. That same year, Bitmain was reported to have filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering, sponsored by Deutsche Bank. Currently, Bitmain remains a private company.
Bitmain’s years-long power struggles between its two co-founders, Micree Zhan and Jihan Wu, have hindered its IPO. A cease-fire took place in January 2021 when Wu resigned from his CEO and chairman positions and Zhan gained the upper hand in the company.
In an open letter by Zhan to Bitmain staff and shareholders in June 2020, he promised that he would lead the company to an IPO and a valuation of US$50 billion within the next three to five years.