How Binance's plan to buy FTX unfolded in a matter of days

Binance and FTX logos are seen in this illustration taken, November 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

(Reuters) - Crypto exchange Binance signed a nonbinding agreement on Tuesday to acquire rival crypto exchange FTX, in a dramatic move that capped off a series of back-and-forth salvos between the CEOs of both companies.

Here are the key developments in the longstanding relationship between Binance and FTX:

* December 2019: Binance invested an undisclosed amount in FTX, which was then a derivatives exchange, CoinDesk reported. Binance also purchased long positions in FTT, FTX's native crypto token.

* July 2021: Binance announced that it was selling its stake in FTX, Fortune reported. As part of that exit, Binance received the equivalent of $2.1 billion in Binance's stablecoin and FTT, according to Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao.

* Nov. 2: Crypto news website CoinDesk reported on a leaked balance sheet from Alameda Research, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto trading firm, which maintains close ties with FTX.

* According to CoinDesk's report, $3.66 billion of Alameda's $14.6 billion in assets are held in “unlocked” FTT. Reuters was unable to independently verify the accuracy of the report or the origin of the leaked balance sheet. Still, investors quickly noticed that Alameda’s finances appeared to be heavily dependent on FTT, and FTT’s value was in turn heavily dependent on purchases from FTX, the token’s largest buyer.

* Nov. 6, 9:32 a.m. ET: Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison said in a tweet that the "balance sheet info which has been circulating recently" showed only a subset of Alameda's corporate entities. The firm has more than $10 billion in assets that are not reflected in the CoinDesk report, she said.

* Nov. 6, 10:47 a.m. ET: Concern escalated on Sunday when Zhao tweeted that Binance would liquidate its holdings of FTT “due to recent revelations that have come to light,” although he did not specify which revelations he was referring to or how much of the token Binance held.

* Nov 7: In a series of tweets on Monday, Bankman-Fried asserted that “a competitor is trying to go after us with false rumors.”

“FTX is fine. Assets are fine,” he said.

He tagged Zhao in a later tweet, saying "I'd love it, @cz_binance, if we could work together for the ecosystem."

* Nov. 8: In the 72 hours leading up to Tuesday morning, FTX had seen around $6 billion of withdrawals, according to a message to staff sent by Bankman-Fried that was seen by Reuters. Also on Tuesday morning, Bankman-Fried wrote that withdrawals are effectively paused.

Shortly after 11 a.m. ET, Bankman-Fried tweeted that FTX had "come to an agreement on a strategic transaction with Binance for," and that while teams were working on clearing the backlog of withdrawal requests, all assets would be covered 1:1.

Zhao tweeted that there is "a significant liquidity crunch" at FTX and, in order to protect users, Binance signed a nonbinding letter of intent to acquire, which does not include FTX's U.S. entity.

(Reporting by Hannah Lang in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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