What Tesla’s Big Bitcoin Sale Means for Other Firms Putting Crypto on Their Balance Sheets

Corporations are likely to remain cautious on adding bitcoin to their treasuries, but not because of Tesla’s move.

AccessTimeIconJul 21, 2022 at 8:28 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 4:23 p.m. UTC
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Tesla (TSLA) opting to sell 75% of its bitcoin (BTC) holdings is unlikely to have a significant impact on whether other firms will be adding crypto to their corporate treasuries.

For starters, CEO Elon Musk has not entirely abandoned Tesla’s bitcoin position, and said during the company conference call he remains open to adding to the company’s bitcoin holdings again in the future.

“This should not be taken as some verdict on bitcoin,” Musk noted on the call, saying the sale was needed to boost the electric vehicle maker's cash position given COVID-19 lockdowns in China, one of Tesla’s largest markets.

Tesla was also able to eke out a small profit on its bitcoin sale, despite the sharp decline in bitcoin prices over the last few months. The company first bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin in January 2021 when the cryptocurrency was selling for around $32,000 to $33,000. Tesla later sold about 10% of its holdings in that first quarter for a profit.

“We converted a majority of our bitcoin holdings to fiat for a realized gain, offset by impairment charges on the remainder of our holdings, netting a $106 million cost to the P&L included within restructuring and other,” Tesla Chief Financial Officer Zach Kirkhorn said during Wednesday’s earnings call.

And Tesla’s bitcoin sale could be viewed as a completely reasonable tactic for raising cash for corporate purposes.

“It makes perfect sense that corporate treasuries faced with decreasing profitability and possible layoffs will sell liquid assets, including cryptocurrency,” Pat Larsen, co-founder of crypto tax accounting software firm ZenLedger. “It is not a surprise that Tesla would try to free up cash right now with a falling stock price and an uncertain economic environment.”

Tesla’s cash position at the end of the second quarter increased to about $18.3 billion from $17.5 billion at the end of the first quarter, boosted by its bitcoin sale.

Larsen told CoinDesk he expects more corporations to add bitcoin to their coffers in the future, especially as more regulations are passed by the U.S. Congress.

Gil Luria, DA Davidson’s technology strategist, said that if we take Musk at his word about his reasons for selling and openness to repurchasing, then his outlook on bitcoin doesn’t appear to have changed.

Meanwhile, the proposition that bitcoin can serve as a better option than cash for corporate treasury purposes hasn’t been altered, but it also hasn’t come to fruition yet either, Luria said. And given the recent volatility in crypto prices, “the rate of adoption by corporates isn't going to be as fast,” Luria added.

Skeptics will remain on the sidelines, but other firms will explore the idea of adding bitcoin to their balance sheet, according to Chris Terry, vice president of enterprise solutions at open lending platform SmartFi. Tesla was able to successfully liquidate almost $1 billion in bitcoin and thus fared better than simply owning Treasury bonds, Terry told CoinDesk.


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Michael Bellusci is CoinDesk's crypto reporter focused on public companies and digital asset firms.

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