GBTC at a Discount Could Become a Systemic Risk, ByteTree Says

The crypto markets data company said ETFs would solve the problem.

Mar 19, 2021 at 4:53 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:29 p.m. UTC

The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust could “morph into a systemic risk,” according to a report from crypto markets data company ByteTree.

In the report, ByteTree Chief Investment Officer Charlie Morris wrote that 81% of institutional inflows to bitcoin have come via GBTC. (Grayscale is owned by CoinDesk parent company Digital Currency Group).

From alternatives like Osprey’s bitcoin fund to Bitwise’s cryptocurrency index to Canadian bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs), investors now have more choices for hassle-free bitcoin exposure. The once-sizable premium over the price of bitcoin for GBTC has flipped to a discount, reflecting a drop in demand for the vehicle.

With GBTC offering no premium, institutional inflows will likely slow further, which means GBTC won’t buy more BTC, which would remove a support for the market, ByteTree said.

“With luck, this is a GBTC problem and does not spread," Morris wrote. “Exchange-traded funds solve this problem. With many applications filed, I imagine they will come to market sooner or later. Like the European [exchange-traded products], they will trade at [net asset value], which is what investors want. Their fees will be lower, and all in all it will be a more attractive package. When they come, the only reason investors will stay in GBTC is capital gains tax.”

ByteTree says Digital Currency Group’s pledge to purchase up to $250 million in GBTC shares is not enough to keep the discount from falling further. 

“To be taken seriously, they need to pledge to buy back that quantity each week,” Morris wrote. 

Grayscale could convert GBTC into an ETF or apply for an ETF that isn’t linked to the fund. This past week, New York-based Simplify Exchange Traded Funds proposed an ETF that would invest in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.

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