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Nuclear files for bankruptcy as crypto winter bits

Dec 21 (Reuters) – Core Scientific Inc ( CORZ.O ), one of the largest publicly traded U.S. cryptocurrency miners, said on Wednesday it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the latest in a string of failures to hit the sector.

Austin, Texas-based Core Scientific attributed the bankruptcy to falling bitcoin prices, rising energy costs for bitcoin mining and an unpaid $7 million debt from US crypto lender Celsius Network, one of its biggest customers.

Core Scientific said in court filings that it had suffered a net loss of $434.8 million for the three months ending Sept. 30, 2022, and had just $4 million in liquidity at the time of the bankruptcy filing.

The company hired restructuring advisers in October and has been negotiating with creditors about a potential bankruptcy filing since then.

More than a trillion dollars in value has been wiped from the crypto sector this year with rising interest rates exacerbating fears of an economic slowdown. The crash has eliminated key industry players such as crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital and Celsius.

The biggest blow came after major crypto exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy protection last month. The rapid fall has triggered tough regulatory scrutiny of how crypto firms hold funds and conduct business operations.

After rapid growth in 2020 and 2021, bitcoin – by far the most popular digital currency – is down more than 60% this year, putting pressure on the crypto mining sector.

Processing bitcoin transactions and “mining” new tokens is done by powerful computers, connected to a global network, which compete against others to solve complex mathematical puzzles.

Bitcoins are seen in this illustration photo taken on September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

But the business has become less profitable as the price of bitcoin has fallen, while energy costs have risen.

Celsius, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July, owns several bitcoin mining rigs that host Core Scientific’s facilities. Celsius’ bankruptcy has prevented Core Scientific from collecting higher energy bills that the company is racking up at a rate of $900,000 per month, according to court documents.

Core Scientific said it would not liquidate and intends to pursue a restructuring supported by creditors who hold more than 50% of the company’s convertible notes.

These creditors have agreed to provide up to $56 million in debtor-in-possession financing, and convertible note holders will ultimately end up with 97% of Core Scientific’s equity interest if the restructuring is approved in court.

The company’s stock has lost roughly 98% of its value so far in 2022, reducing its market cap to around $78 million.

The stock fell another 50% in trading on Wednesday. Shares of other crypto miners including Riot Blockchain ( RIOT.O ), Marathon Digital ( MARA.O ) and Hut 8 Mining Corp have all declined more than 80% this year.

In its bankruptcy filing, Core Scientific said it has $1 billion to $10 billion in assets and liabilities, and between 1,000 and 5,000 creditors.

Core Scientific went public in 2021 through a merger with a blank check company in a deal that at the time valued the miner at $4.3 billion.

Core Scientific’s first bankruptcy court hearing is set for December 21 at 0915 CT (1515 GMT).

Reporting by Siddharth Jindal, Maria Ponnezhath, Akriti Sharma and Manya Saini in Bengaluru, and Dietrich Knauth in New York and Hannah Lang in Washington; editing by Uttaresh.V, Maju Samuel, Alexia Garamfalvi and Deepa Babington

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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