Blockchain Bites: Coinbase's Competition, Bitcoin ETF Inflows Slow
Coinbase's SEC filing provides insight into crypto's increasingly competitive arena.
FATF says it is open to amending its “Travel Rule” guidance, by speaking with industry stakeholders. The much anticipated set of rules, set down in 2019 but not fully implemented, would see increased reporting requirements for some crypto service providers in an attempt to stem illicit use of crypto. The anti-money laundering watchdog now says it’s looking for input, though is confident the data sharing requirements will roll out by June.
Crypto was not the center of attention at a congressional hearing on terror financing, yesterday. Members of the House Financial Services Committee gathered to discuss data gathering, surveillance and domestic terror statutes for an increasingly digital world. And while crypto came up, no new provisions were suggested to prevent criminal abuse of these tools, CoinDesk’s Nikhilesh De reports.
Canadian Bitcoin ETF inflows have slowed amid a recent price slough. Bloomberg had projected the fast-growing Purpose Bitcoin ETF could hit $1 billion by the end of this week, but as of Friday the assets were less than $700 million. The ETF has collected just 1,766 BTC since Tuesday versus 8,288 BTC in the first two trading days, CoinDesk Senior Reporter Omkar Godbole said. (Purpose's indexes are provided by CoinDesk subsidiary TradeBlock.)
Kraken is reportedly valued at least $10 billion and possibly even more than $20 billion, depending on demand. According to Bloomberg, the exchange is currently in discussions with Fidelity, Tribe Capital and General Atlantic to raise an unknown sum. It was last valued at $4 billion in 2019, after crowdsourcing a raise.
Move fast, or break things
The U.K. Treasury has released a new report that highlights the need to launch a new regime for the regulation and administration of crypto assets, lest the nation lose its fintech lead. The report titled “Kalifa Review of U.K. Fintech,” looks to create a “bespoke” and “innovation-driven” set of rules to guide the world in crypto regulation. Perhaps they should watch Wyoming, which introduced a bill to integrate blockchain into certain state functions.
Coinbase’s filing to go public yesterday was a treasure trove of insight into one of the most significant global cryptocurrency exchanges. According to its S-1, the exchange boasts 43 million verified users, approximately 3 million of whom use the platform on a monthly basis.
Most notably were details of the competitive arena in which Coinbase sees itself and the exchange’s path to profitability. According to the filing, Coinbase’s business is highly tied to market prices. It pulled in profit of $322 million on $1.3 billion in revenue in 2020 amid a record market rally, but lost $30 million on $533 million in revenue the year before during a slump.
“Our operating results have, and will continue to, fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter in accordance with market sentiments,” the company said.
Founded in Silicon Valley in 2012 by current CEO Brian Armstrong and former president and current director Fred Ehrsam, Coinbase also sees a growing threat from quick-moving exchanges operating in less-regulated corridors and the nascent decentralized finance (DeFi) field.
As CoinDesk’s Ian Allison reported, the company called out Binance by name, saying it was potentially its “least regulated and most formidable competitor.” It further cited compliance costs and the potential for “administrative sanctions for technical violations” pegged to the U.S. Treasury Department’s coming “travel rule” as a potential risks to growth.
These same regulations could inhibit its ability to compete with decentralized alternatives like Uniswap, CoinDesk’s Brady Dale reported. “Such platforms have low startup and entry costs as market entrants often remain unregulated and have minimal operating and regulatory costs,” the company wrote.
While decentralized alternatives do offer some benefits to users, like the ability to trade without counterparties and relaxed identification requirements, DeFi is still a small market. The total value of all DeFi apps is estimated at $40 billion, less than half of the value of the assets on Coinbase.
“All of our sources of revenue are dependent on crypto assets and the broader cryptoeconomy,” the filing reads. “There is no assurance that any supported crypto asset will maintain its value or that there will be meaningful levels of trading activities. In the event that the price of crypto assets or the demand for trading crypto assets decline, our business, operating results, and financial condition would be adversely affected.”
Crypto is not just a speculative asset in Latin America, according to Daniel Vogel, chief executive of Bitso, of one the region’s largest exchanges. Appearing on CoinDesk TV, Vogel said crypto and blockchain applications are being used exactly as advertised.
Remittances are increasingly being sent using stablecoins, while an increasing number of people are leveraging decentralized financial apps to earn interest on or safeguard their wealth, he said.
“Suddenly you have this technology that people can access on their cell phones, regardless of where they are, their proximity to a local banking branch. We believe it will completely change the name of the game,” Vogel said.
One notable data point? Bitso would be “Mexico’s seventh-largest bank by number of customers,” Vogel claimed.
Watch the full interview here.
Who won Crypto Twitter?
UPDATE (Feb. 27, 22:03): Updates with updated valuation for Kraken.
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