Binance, the operator of the largest cryptocurrency exchange platform and the blockchain behind the BNB token, has been making headlines this past week as the crypto exchange platform continued to battle a lawsuit filed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in June 2023.
Amid reports that a potential $4.3 billion settlement is due to take place with authorities in the United States, how has the negative news affected BNB ownership, and who owns the most BNB tokens?
Who Are the Top BNB Holders?
According to Carlos Mercado, data scientist at Flipside Crypto, BNB whales have a disproportionate impact on the token’s price due to the fact that crypto tokens often have limited liquidity, especially on-chain liquidity via decentralized exchanges (DEX).
“It is normal for traders to monitor larger players and try to anticipate their buys and sells to benefit from price changes.”
BNB was first launched during an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in 2017, with its initial supply defined as 200 million tokens; however, the supply gradually decreases due to regular coin burn events. As of 3 December 2023, the total circulating supply of BNB tokens surpasses 151 million coins, according to data published on CoinMarketCap.
Dmitry Mishunin, the CEO of HashEx, explained that while knowing who the biggest BNB holders are is interesting to many investors, the influence of these whales might be overshadowed by Binance’s predominant position.
“The centralized structure of Binance implies that individual whales might play a limited role compared to the exchange itself.”
According to data published on etherscan.io, the top 100 BNB holders collectively own over 70% of all tokens in circulation—however, data on etherscan.io points out that the total BNB token supply stands at 393 million coins.
The Top 10 BNB Holders
1. Binance 8
Balance – 52.1 million BNB, which amounts to 13.3% of the total circulating supply. A wallet linked to the Binance crypto exchange.
Balance – 30.6 million BNB which amounts to 7.8% of the total circulating supply.
Balance – 29.4 million BNB, which amounts to 7.5% of the total circulating supply.
4. Binance: BNB Token
Balance – 23.5 million BNB which amounts to 6% of the total circulating supply.
5. Binance 14
Balance – 14.2 million BNB which amounts to 3.6% of the total circulating supply. A wallet linked to the Binance crypto exchange.
Balance – 9.7 million BNB which amounts to 2.5% of the total circulating supply.
Balance – 9 million BNB which amounts to 2.29% of the total circulating supply.
Balance – 8.5 million BNB which amounts to 2.2% of the total circulating supply.
9. EtherDelta 2
Balance – 8.4 million BNB which amounts to 2.1% of the total circulating supply. A wallet linked to the EtherDelta decentralized crypto exchange.
Balance – 7.8 million BNB which amounts to 2% of the total circulating supply.
CoinCarp gives similar statistics, noting that the top 100 BNB whales own over 80% of BNB tokens in circulation, meanwhile, the top 10 BNB holders own over 75% of all tokens in circulation. According to the website, there are over 404 million BNB holders.
According to CoinCarp, the top BNB token holder is a wallet linked to Binance, which holds about 12 million coins, which amounts to 49.62% of the total tokens in circulation.
IS CZ’s Departure Affecting BNB Ownership?
Changpeng Zhao (CZ), the Binance founder, stepped down as the CEO of Binance.US at the end of November 2023 as the crypto exchange continues to battle a multibillion-dollar settlement.
As you know, https://t.co/AZwoBOgsqS was launched with the express purpose of serving United States customers in accordance with all…
— Binance.US 🇺🇸 (@BinanceUS) November 28, 2023
But has this decision affected top BNB holders?
While the news sparked interest, HashEx’s Mishunin noted that this did not greatly impact BNB ownership.
“When it comes to BNB ownership, it’s crucial to recognize that despite individual whales, the overarching influence remains with Binance itself. The role of whales, in this context, might be less significant given the centralized nature of Binance.”
Flipside Crypto’s Mercado agreed, highlighting that the latest Binance news has had a very small impact on BNB ownership.
“Most notably, we’ve seen BNB tokens flowing away from the Binance exchange since November 20th, along with consistent accumulation of BNB tokens into wallets on the BSC network. That is, addresses on BSC are net receiving more BNB tokens than net sending them each day.”
READ MORE: SEC vs Binance, Coinbase, Kraken
BNB Concentration vs Binance’s Decentralization?
Meanwhile, the high concentration of BNB tokens among few entities could seem to have quite a high impact on the overall decentralized nature of the Binance blockchain in terms of governance and security risks, HashEx’s Mishunin highlighted that the main question here revolves around the trade-off between order and crypto-anarchy.
“Binance’s ability to roll back transactions or recover from hacks, while compromising some aspects of decentralization, ensures the safety of users’ funds. For users with substantial holdings, this centralized safeguard can be a plus, as they are more likely to receive institutional support in case of an incident.”
Mercado noted that it is not unusual for a foundation or entity behind the development of a blockchain to control a sizeable number of tokens.
“In this case, Binance Hot Wallet 20 holds about 40% of all BNB. But this BNB is likely owed to users of the Binance Central Exchange. I think the better question is: How much decentralization is required for Binance to complete its vision? It’s already the top Centralized Exchange. It has nearly 900,000 daily active users (DAU), which is more than Polygon, Base, Arbitrum, Avalanche, and Optimism combined, as measured by unique addresses submitting transactions.”
Stemming from this, Mercado added that the Binance Smart Chain (BSC) was always focused on reasonable decentralization over maximum decentralization. The blockchain has significant daily user growth and usage, especially for its top decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol, PancakeSwap.
“Users seem to be okay with these tradeoffs, both in terms of centralization of nodes and centralization of activity into only a few key protocols, in exchange for lower fees and easy on/off ramps via the central exchange.”
BNB Usability and Influence on Token Ownership
BNB’s wide acceptance for goods and services encourages broader participation and distribution as more users acquire and utilize the token. BNB’s utility, especially in providing discounts for trading fees on the Binance platform, also adds a positive aspect to its ownership, Mishunin noted; however, he added that the token’s current utility in the Binance Chain may require further enhancements to match the fervor seen in the earlier days.
“In essence, while the fee discounts for trading fees on the exchange are a definite positive, the utility of BNB within the Binance Chain, especially in comparison to the past, raises questions about its potential to generate a similar level of enthusiasm. The competitive landscape has evolved, and the utility of BNB in the larger blockchain space may face challenges in replicating its past success.”
Overall, Mishunin said that the evolving landscape of BNB prompts a critical evaluation of its role in the currently evolving crypto market.
“Personally, I’m considering diversifying my holdings, given the uncertainties surrounding BNB’s future prospects.”
Mercado added that the provided discounts on trading feed automatically centralize token ownership into the exchange wallets, as they encourage users to stay on the Binance blockchain, however, other use cases, like making purchases using the Binance VISA card, could decentralize the token.
“Colloquially, many users globally find the Central Exchange app highly efficient and transfer directly to others within that app, without using the blockchain at all. This would also explain/promote centralization in token ownership from an on-chain perspective, while obscuring what percentage of the tokens Binance holds are owed to their direct customers.”
Amid Binance’s legal battle, many might wonder how that could affect the top BNB holders. While the top 100 BNB holders collectively own over 70% of the total token supply, the influence of individual whales might be overshadowed by Binance’s centralized structure.
As BNB’s landscape evolves, users will continue to weigh the token’s utility, discounts, and potential challenges in an ever-evolving crypto market.