Telegram Caves to US Regulators: Delays Blockchain Launch, Offers to Return $1.2B to Investors

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Coindesk | Anna Baydakova | Apr 30, 2020

Telgram CEO pavel durov - Telegram Caves to US Regulators: Delays Blockchain Launch, Offers to Return $1.2B to InvestorsMessaging app Telegram postponed the launch of its TON blockchain for a second time on Wednesday, pushing the new go-live date to April 2021 and triggering a costly clawback clause in its agreement with token-sale investors.

According to a letter to investors obtained by CoinDesk, Telegram is offering to return up to 72% of each investor's stake. The terms were agreed upon when Telegram first postponed TON's launch in October, following a lawsuit from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charging Telegram with running an unregistered securities sale that raked in $1.7 billion in 2018. At the time, Telegram set a revised launch deadline of April 30, 2020.

The company lost an initial court battle with the SEC, with a U.S. judge ruling Telegram can't launch its blockchain or issue its forthcoming "gram" tokens until the case was resolved. On March 24, the initial preliminary injunction was left in place.

See:  Telegram Enforcement Action: “A reminder that the SEC not only has considerable enforcement tools but is willing to use them”

On Wednesday, however, Telegram floated another option for those investors who choose to forego their 72%: They can lend their investment to Telegram until this time next year.

The letter states:

"As a token of gratitude for your trust in TON, we are also offering you an alternative option to receive 110% of your original investment by April 30, 2021, which is 53% higher than the Termination Amount."

Telegram is "continuing to engage in discussions with the relevant authorities," the letter continues. Depending on how the negotiations go, those investors could still receive "grams or potentially another cryptocurrency on the same terms as those in their original Purchase Agreements."

If regulators continue blocking the launch of TON, Telegram will repay the debt using equity. At present, the company is entirely owned by its founder and CEO, Pavel Durov. Citing Telegram's recent growth to 400 million monthly users, the company believes its "equity value will exceed the aggregate amount of its potential debt resulting from this offer by at least several times."

Investor upside?

Sergey Solonin, the founder of payment processing firm QIWI and a $17 million investor in TON, said it's good news for investors.

"The terms are really good, I think a lot of investors will choose to keep their money in Telegram," he said, citing the promise of additional returns.

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"There is definitely capital value there, and even if Telegram will ultimately not be allowed to issue grams, I think, in the course of this year [it] can find an investor and pay the money back [to the token purchasers]," Solonin said.

Two fund managers told CoinDesk last week that many investors, especially the Silicon Valley venture funds, would prefer to have their token allocations converted into Telegram shares. For some VCs, the tokens have essentially been a proxy for Telegram’s equity, which the company was previously unwilling to sell. Selling equity had been not an option for Durov, they said.

After the March 24 ruling, Telegram went completely silent, making no communications with TON investors until the eleventh hour, according to several investors.

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