Bitcoin-holders MicroStrategy and Galaxy Digital soared last week after Tesla bought $1.5 billion. Will other companies now follow suit?
Galaxy Digitaland other bitcoin holders soared on the marketslast week.
- Tesla's purchase of $1.5 billion in bitcoin was the catalyst, bringing more attention to crypto.
- But bitcoin's volatility and energy use are obstacles to widespread adoption by firms.
Companies that hold bitcoin on their balance sheet soared on the stock market last week, after Elon Musk's Tesla announced it had bought $1.5 billion of the cryptocurrency, sending the price to an all-time high of above $48,000.
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Tesla's bitcoin purchase not only sent the digital currency's price skyrocketing, but turned a spotlight on firms that already hold it in their virtual vaults.
Then BNY Mellon and Mastercard lent more credibility to bitcoin and
"You're going to see every company in America" adding bitcoin to their balance sheets, Galaxy Digital boss
The question investors, analysts and company treasurers asked themselves last week was: is Novogratz right?
Read more: A Ruffer portfolio manager invested a portion of his $4.8 billion fund in Bitcoin. Here's what swayed him to bet on crypto - and the 2 other ways he's hedging against worrying speculative bubbles
Analysts say bitcoin's volatility make it a risk for firms
Tesla's investors did not seem so convinced by the move last week, with the stock down around 5% for the week as of Thursday close.
Shareholders may have been worried about the extra risk Tesla has taken on. Bitcoin is highly volatile. It plunged from around $19,000 at the end of 2017 to below $4,000 at the start of 2019.
Jerry Klein, managing director at Treasury Partners, said it was an "unusual" use of corporate cash. Normally, spare money is put in safe assets like money-market funds or bank deposits.
Chief financial officers "are willing to accept risk in their overall business, but not with the cash on their balance sheet," he said. "While bitcoin has been surging in recent months, it's been very volatile over the past few years."
JPMorgan analysts were also unconvinced. "The main issue with the idea that mainstream corporate treasurers will follow the example of Tesla is the volatility of bitcoin," they said in a note.
Another issue is the climate implications of bitcoin, as the cryptocurrency takes a lot of computing power to "mine". Bitcoin currently uses more energy per year than the Netherlands and slightly less than Norway, according to a Cambridge University tool.
Bitcoin's massive energy use could be a turn-off for investors, as markets increasingly focus on climate change. And it could dent the green reputation of alternative-energy pioneers like Tesla.
Read More: The CIO of a $700 million crypto asset manager breaks down why Elon Musk's gradual acceptance of bitcoin means the digital currency has room to run - and shares why it's launching an over-the-counter fund
Tesla and bitcoin tap into new generation
MicroStrategy boss Michael Saylor argues that bitcoin is a good asset for companies to hold in a world where record amounts of stimulus raise the chances of inflation and the erosion of the value of currencies.
MicroStrategy holds just under 71,000 bitcoin, a February filing showed, which was worth roughly $3.3 billion on Friday.
Saylor told Bloomberg TV that he thinks companies will start wanting "a non-sovereign, safe-haven store of value." He said firms are soon "going to realize that bitcoin does the job of gold better, and you're seeing all of the institutional flows move out of gold into bitcoin."
Novogratz suggested Elon Musk and Tesla were not just turning to bitcoin for its potential as a store of value. The company is part of a growing movement behind alternative assets, he said.
"One of the things that connect bitcoin, and Tesla and solar stocks and ESG investing is millennials and Gen Z, young people are buying into the future," he told Bloomberg.
"And they see cryptocurrencies - bitcoin and other cryptos - as their currencies," he said.
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