Is Grayscale Takeover Bait Amid Bitcoin ETF Battle?

Experts said newcomers in the bitcoin investing game could be enticed by Grayscale, the incumbent with a huge lead.

AccessTimeIconJan 23, 2024 at 3:20 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 8:20 p.m. UTC
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The battle to scoop up investors' money for newly approved bitcoin ETFs is shaping up to be a fierce one among BlackRock, Fidelity and other financial firms.

If the newcomers want to take a giant leap forward, experts say they could consider buying the incumbent in bitcoin investing: Grayscale.

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  • The crypto asset manager earlier this month got permission to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) into an ETF. At the same time, nine other companies won the ability to create their own bitcoin ETFs.

    Follow the latest bitcoin ETF approval coverage Here

    Grayscale started with a huge lead. After a decade operating as a closed-end fund, the investment pool had accumulated almost $30 billion of bitcoin. The newcomers started at zero. The gap has shrunk some as investors remove money from GBTC and the new funds collect money. But, at $22 billion, GBTC remains far ahead of the next two companies in the assets ranking: BlackRock and Fidelity, both at $1.4 billion.

    Anyone looking to catch up might want to take a look.

    "It's certainly possible that Grayscale could get acquired," said Brian D. Evans, CEO and founder of BDE Ventures. "They are sort of the standard now, and even my dad had heard of GBTC from a long time ago, so an acquisition could happen because they have some name recognition already."

    A representative of Grayscale could not be reached for comment.

    With $22 billion, Grayscale's GBTC remains far ahead of the next two companies in the assets ranking, as of Jan. 22. (Source: Bloomberg Intelligence)
    With $22 billion, Grayscale's GBTC remains far ahead of the next two companies in the assets ranking, as of Jan. 22. (Source: Bloomberg Intelligence)

    One of the strategies traditional financial players have used to grow their businesses is buying out their competitors. The recent launch of ten new spot bitcoin ETFs marked an unprecedented event in the world of finance: major players from crypto and TradFi competing for the same turf.

    "A strategic acquisition of a firm such as Grayscale makes a ton of sense for the right traditional ETF issuer assuming the price is palatable," said Nate Geraci, president of the ETF Store, an advisory firm. "While only two weeks old, the spot bitcoin ETF category is already wildly competitive and has clearly turned into a scale game given how low expense ratios are. A traditional ETF issuer could quickly boost assets under management, gain business operating expertise, and also acquire some 'crypto street cred' by targeting the right crypto-fund native firm."

    CoinShares, a crypto asset manager, recently bought the ETF unit of Valkyrie Investments, which has a new bitcoin ETF. Geraci predicts more transactions like this could happen sooner rather than later.

    However, for Grayscale, a timeline for potential acquisition might be harder to gauge, given some uncertainties surrounding the firm. "Someone acquiring Grayscale is theoretically possible, possibly even likely over a long enough time frame, particularly with the current issues surrounding their parent company," said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst James Seyffart.

    Grayscale is owned by Digital Currency Group. DCG, its Genesis subsidiary and former business partner Gemini Trust were sued by the state of New York in October for allegedly defrauding investors of more than $1 billion.

    Grayscale's recently converted fund has also seen billions of redemptions from investors: more than $2 billion worth of GBTC has been sold since its conversion into an ETF.

    BDE Ventures' Evans said that DCG's legal troubles and the large amount of money being pulled out of GBTC could expedite a sale.

    "It makes you wonder about the timing of how this could play out," he said. "I suspect that were an acquisition to occur, it would likely happen sooner rather than later, because you want to acquire all that bitcoin before prices go up more."

    Read more: After the ETF: Bitcoin’s Coming Power Struggle

    Edited by Aoyon Ashraf and Nick Baker.


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    Helene Braun

    Helene is a New York-based reporter covering Wall Street, the rise of the spot bitcoin ETFs and crypto exchanges. She is also the co-host of CoinDesk's Markets Daily show. Helene is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program and has appeared on CBS News, YahooFinance and Nasdaq TradeTalks. She holds BTC and ETH.


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