Coinbase, With Bitcoin Soaring, Files in Preparation for Landmark Public Offering

Coinbase has filed preliminary documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a public offering.

AccessTimeIconDec 17, 2020 at 7:01 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 10:44 a.m. UTC
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Coinbase is getting ready to go public. On Thursday, the major cryptocurrency exchange filed preliminary documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Coinbase has been the subject of IPO speculation for months. But the timing, coming just one day after bitcoin broke $20,000 for the first time ever, cannot be ignored. The major exchange is positioning itself as Wall Street’s most accessible bet yet on cryptocurrency.

In October 2018, Coinbase was valued at $8 billion. Given the stratospheric increase in the price of bitcoin since then and the recent demand for initial public offerings, it's expected Coinbase's current valuation will be significantly higher.

"The Form S-1 is expected to become effective after the SEC completes its review process, subject to market and other conditions," the firm wrote in a sparse blog post.

Coinbase said it filed confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s the first formal step on the long road to a public offering. The document, which likely includes target raise, was not available at press time.

A Coinbase spokesman declined to comment further.

The company’s influence touches all corners of the cryptocurrency industry. It is a major hub for retail bitcoin trading and a gateway for alternative cryptocurrencies. Its institutional business is growing faster than MicroStrategy’s sats pile. It has an analytics team, a stablecoin in partnership with Circle, a ventures wing and a commerce department.

All of that could appeal to a Wall Street class eager for exposure to the cryptocurrency markets.

Daily bitcoin trading volume on Coinbase.
Daily bitcoin trading volume on Coinbase.

It’s unclear whether Coinbase is looking to go public via an IPO or a direct listing. Coinbase was first rumored to be exploring a stock market listing in July 2020, when Reuters reported it had begun the process of taking its shares public. Unnamed sources told the wire service at the time that Coinbase was looking at a direct listing, rather than an initial public offering.

Both IPOs and direct listings require form S-1s, according to a blog post from Andreessen Horowitz, a key Coinbase investor.

The form Coinbase filed is confidential, meaning its contents won’t be made public until three weeks prior to the exchange’s roadshow, when the firm tries to woo potential investors.

This story will be updated.

Zack Seward and Nikhilesh De contributed reporting.


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