Trading of LMB Holdings bitcoin shares on the Havelock Investments exchange has been suspended "due to an increase of abnormal activity" – apparently at the request of the company itself.
UK-based LMB Holdings is the parent company of Neo & Bee, a bitcoin company that offers bank-like services, and which recently opened its first premises in Cyprus.
An update today on the company's Havelock page said:
"Havelock Investments has been formally informed by the Pass-Through Fund Manager of NEOBEE that the compliance officer of Neo and Bee Ltd has stated that due to an increase of abnormal activity on the LMB share platform, there may be a high possibility of questionable trading activity. While Neo and Bee Ltd investigate the issue further they have strongly recommended that we halt trading and transfers."
Havelock Investments has halted the NEOBEE fund and is awaiting further instructions from the issuer."
A jittery bitcoin world, traumatized by years of sudden and high-profile downfalls in the space, immediately leapt on the news that one of its newest flag carriers might be in trouble. It should be stressed that the news at this stage only refers to the temporary share trading suspension, and that Neo & Bee's regular business continues to operate as usual.
There has been no public statement from Neo & Bee itself, and Havelock Investments has not elaborated on what the "questionable trading activity" might have entailed.
While CEO Danny Brewster is out of the country and has not made an official statement on the events, he denied anything untoward about his actions.
Whether it was related to Neo & Bee's request to Havelock or not is uncertain, but this unusual thread appeared on the bitcointalk forums on 22nd March, with a relatively new user expressing an urgent need to sell over 28,000 (despite originally saying 1,000) LMB shares, outside Havelock's platform.
"I need the money ASAP, and the website says 'Transfers are typically completed in 1-2 business days.' which I would rather not wait," the user wrote.
Neo & Bee, consisting of brick-and-mortar bitcoin savings company Neo and card-based payment processor Bee, exists under UK umbrella company LMB Holdings. LMB also controls cash-to-bitcoin processor Neo Easycoin and has plans for a future Neo Xchange brokerage platform. The first Neo physical bitcoin savings branch opened in Cyprus just last month.
The company launched an IPO on bitcoin-only share trading platform Havelock Investments in September 2013. The price stayed fairly constant at 0.0029 BTC preceding the first Neo branch opening, before jumping to its highest point of 0.00594 BTC on 26th February. It currently sits around 0.00185 BTC.
A revised version of LMB Holdings' prospectus, by Brewster, was released on 17th March with details of all current operations and future plans, including Crypto Portfolio Management, the 'Homemall' merchant marketplace and a remittance service.
Brewster had promised a PDF version of the prospectus with appendices containing all financial projections later that week, but neither has been released as yet. He has also been absent from Twitter since 18th March.
New bitcoin world
Many in the wider bitcoin community had great expectations for Neo & Bee, seeing it as a significant step towards bringing bitcoin out of the media shadows in which it often finds itself, and into the public consciousness. Its first Neo outlet, with plans for others to follow within a month, was backed by a professional image campaign rarely seen in pre-2014 'bitcoin financial services 1.0' businesses.
It stressed full reserve holdings, KYC-AML compliance, records-keeping, fiduciary duties to customers, best practices for bitcoin storage (cold storage, multi-signature), cryptographic proof of reserves and insurance against cyber attacks.
Neo has targeted a more non-technological crowd, hoping to bring new customers and stakeholders into the bitcoin fold with promises of added security and convenience. Neo conducted an extensive media and advertising campaign in Cyprus to accompany its launch.
Questions to answer
Neo & Bee also acquired some high-profile names as endorsements, most notably Andreas Antonopoulos, who was listed as the board's Technical Advisor.
As news of the suspension of trading broke, Antonopoulos was almost immediately faced with a barrage of questions on various social media sites, to which he replied.
@mccabe_brian I am a technical advisor, I have no insight into their operations or control over the management. Waiting to find out myself
— AndreasMAntonopoulos (@aantonop) March 30, 2014
Antonopoulos, who is widely respected by the bitcoin world for dedication to transparency and communication as well as his expertise, also responded to questions on reddit:
"I have no information about the operations at Neo & Bee, I have only acted as a technical advisor. I am getting no communication from the firm and have not had any response to my messages."
"I have no investment involvement or insight, other than acting as a consultant on security architecture, providing advice over skype & telephone for their operations. I do not know anything more."
This story is still developing. CoinDesk will monitor updates and revise the article as new details are known.
Images courtesy of Neo & Bee
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.