Coinbase’s Q4 Trading Volumes Set to Increase but Outlook Could Get Gloomy Amid Volatility

Analysts are divided on the outlook for America’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

Feb 23, 2022 at 1:50 p.m. UTC
Updated Feb 24, 2022 at 9:16 p.m. UTC

Michael Bellusci is CoinDesk's crypto payments reporter.

Coinbase Global (COIN) is set to report a rise in its overall crypto trading volumes in the fourth quarter when it releases earnings on Thursday after the market close. But a volatile start to the year could create some uncertainty in the crypto exchange’s outlook.

Mizuho Securities equity research analyst Dan Dolev expects the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange to post trading volume of $525 billion for its fourth quarter, up 61% from its third quarter total of $327 billion. Over at Needham & Co., analyst John Todaro, who has a buy rating on Coinbase, expects volume of $465 billion, which he increased from his previous estimate of $355 billion, citing higher retail trading earlier in the quarter in October, along with an increase in app downloads during that time.

Coinbase said during its latest earnings release in November that “while we entered Q3 with softer crypto market conditions, driven by low volatility and declining crypto asset prices, market conditions improved meaningfully later in the quarter which we have continued to see into early Q4.” Since then, crypto prices including bitcoin and ether have remained especially volatile amid what some refer to as a “crypto winter.” The broader technology and growth stock categories have also retreated as Wall Street braces for higher interest rates.

Still, Mizuho’s Dolev thinks the first quarter could bring more headwinds for Coinbase. “The relatively sluggish start to 2022 may impact management’s guide for the full year” with respect to overall company revenue, he told clients in a note, maintaining a neutral rating on the stock.

On Tuesday, D.A. Davidson's Christopher Brendler, who has a buy rating on Coinbase, said that he was raising his Q4 estimates but lowering its estimates for 2022-2024. "Publicly available exchange data suggests COIN had a much better-than-expected 4Q21 but 1Q22 activity has slowed dramatically," Brendler wrote.

Others are sticking with Coinbase and continuing to recommend it for clients despite its near-term volatility. “While we acknowledge that recent declines in crypto prices have negative implications for near term earnings, we continue to believe that 2022 could bring with it new opportunities for new revenue streams and new products,” Goldman Sachs’ Will Nance told clients in a Jan. 26 note and maintained its buy recommendation on the shares, though it did cut its price target on shares from $352 to $288. Goldman cited new businesses such as non-fungible tokens (NFT) and derivatives as ways in which Coinbase can diversify its revenue streams.

Overall, analysts are expecting Coinbase to report $2.0 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter, according to FactSet, compared to $1.3 billion in the third quarter and $585 million in the year ago quarter, and adjusted earnings per share of $1.94, versus $1.62 in the third quarter. Shares are down about 30% this year, and nearly 50% since debuting on the Nasdaq in April of last year.

As for the first quarter, Coinbase may get a boost from its much-talked-about Super Bowl LVI ad that featured a color-changing QR code bouncing around a blank screen for a full minute. When scanned, the code brought users to a sign-up page for Coinbase. The resulting traffic was so large that the site went down for a period of time.

“This marketing strategy worked, and the implication is Coinbase could have just signed up enormous new users in 1Q22, at a reasonable cost,” according to Oppenheimer’s Owen Lau. Lau, who maintains an outperform recommendation on the stock, said in a note to clients that this may lead to a jump in Coinbase’s total users for the first quarter.

UPDATE (Feb. 23 17:29 UTC): Added D.A. Davidson's comments in fifth paragraph.

CORRECTION (Feb. 24 21:16 UTC): Corrected analyst revenue and EPS estimates in the seventh paragraph.

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Michael Bellusci is CoinDesk's crypto payments reporter.

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Michael Bellusci is CoinDesk's crypto payments reporter.

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