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Olga Kharif

Olga Kharif

2 months ago

A month after freezing customer withdrawals, Celsius files for bankruptcy.

Alex Mashinsky, CEO of Celsius, speaks at Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon. 

Celsius Network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a month after freezing customer withdrawals, joining other crypto casualties.

Celsius took the step to stabilize its business and restructure for all stakeholders. The filing was done in the Southern District of New York.

The company, which amassed more than $20 billion by offering 18% interest on cryptocurrency deposits, paused withdrawals and other functions in mid-June, citing "extreme market conditions."

As the Fed raises interest rates aggressively, it hurts risk sentiment and squeezes funding costs. Voyager Digital Ltd. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month, and Three Arrows Capital has called in liquidators.

Celsius called the pause "difficult but necessary." Without the halt, "the acceleration of withdrawals would have allowed certain customers to be paid in full while leaving others to wait for Celsius to harvest value from illiquid or longer-term asset deployment activities," it said.

Celsius declined to comment. CEO Alex Mashinsky said the move will strengthen the company's future.

The company wants to keep operating. It's not requesting permission to allow customer withdrawals right now; Chapter 11 will handle customer claims. The filing estimates assets and liabilities between $1 billion and $10 billion.

Celsius is advised by Kirkland & Ellis, Centerview Partners, and Alvarez & Marsal.

Yield-promises

Celsius promised 18% returns on crypto loans. It lent those coins to institutional investors and participated in decentralized-finance apps.

When TerraUSD (UST) and Luna collapsed in May, Celsius pulled its funds from Terra's Anchor Protocol, which offered 20% returns on UST deposits. Recently, another large holding, staked ETH, or stETH, which is tied to Ether, became illiquid and discounted to Ether.

The lender is one of many crypto companies hurt by risky bets in the bear market. Also, Babel halted withdrawals. Voyager Digital filed for bankruptcy, and crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy.

According to blockchain data and tracker Zapper, Celsius repaid all of its debt in Aave, Compound, and MakerDAO last month.

Celsius charged Symbolic Capital Partners Ltd. 2,000 Ether as collateral for a cash loan on June 13. According to company filings, Symbolic was charged 2,545.25 Ether on June 11.

In July 6 filings, it said it reshuffled its board, appointing two new members and firing others.