A former Binance executive has reportedly purchased one of the largest digital currency wallets and exchanges in Southeast Asia. According to local reports, ex-Binance CFO Wei Zhou has acquired Coins.ph for $200 million.
Coins.ph started in 2014 as an e-wallet that allowed users to buy, sell and store a few digital currencies. Since then, it has expanded beyond this to other services, including prepaid mobile top-ups, remittances, and bill payments.
The startup was bought in January 2019 by Gojek, an Indonesian on-demand multi-service platform, and digital payment decacorn, marking the company’s first foray into the Philippines. However, Gojek has since merged with a local e-commerce company and is now focusing on its native Indonesian market.
Zhou is reportedly buying Coins.ph for $200 million, more than twice the $95 million that Gojek had bought the company just over two years ago.
“We’re confident the Coins.ph team, supported by its new management, will continue to further its mission of increasing financial inclusion and creating a positive impact in the Philippines,” Gojek stated, confirming the purchase to one local outlet.
The acquisition by Gojek in 2019 was one that most people thought would give Coins.ph a major boost and possibly make it Southeast Asia’s dominant exchange. After all, Gojek has grown itself explosively to become the region’s first unicorn and, later, decacorn.
But it didn’t happen. Following the acquisition, Coins.ph expanded into several financial services such as bill payments, putting it in direct competition with local giants like GCash, which has 55 million users. While it has made a splash, Coins.ph never really managed to become a serious player in all these other sectors. In addition, its pivot to these services saw it lose ground on its digital currency dominance.
One senior investment executive with knowledge of the company told a media outlet that the digital currency segment of Coins.ph “pretty much died under Gojek.”
“Gojek didn’t do much with it, which was unfortunate because Coins was the leading crypto wallet in the Philippines. But now, with the new management, they’ll revive that part of the business as a crypto wallet and trading platform, making it the Coinbase of Southeast Asia,” the executive added.
Zhou might just be the man who will revive the Filipino exchange. Before joining Binance, he managed a number of global companies, with Binance stating that he brought “over 15 years of executive experience” to his role.
He left abruptly after three years at the role in the middle of a year in which Binance was under unceasing assault by regulators after years of reckless flouting of financial laws in dozens of jurisdictions. The exchange said that Zhou had decided to leave for personal reasons.
As the outlet further revealed, Binance was one of the companies that tried acquiring Coins.ph in 2021, but the deal didn’t sail through. The Changpeng Zhao-led exchange has acquired several wallets and exchanges, including India’s WazirX. However, just like its parent company, WazirX is also facing regulatory trouble, including being accused of violating India’s foreign exchange law.
Coins.ph, under its new management, will be competing to regain its former share of a market that’s becoming one of the most coveted globally. Adoption of digital currencies in the Philippines has soared in recent years and goes beyond trading to play-to-earn games, DeFi, and NFTs. The country is the biggest market for Axie Infinity, a P2E game that was attacked recently and lost $600 million on its Ronin sidechain.
“I think the Philippines can be the crypto capital of Southeast Asia. What we have in the Philippines is a great regulator and a population that is highly unbanked. An open market and over 100 million Filipinos who only have basic financial services—it’s a perfect storm,” one financial executive observed.
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