Apr 13, 2021 - Economy

What to watch as Wall Street prepares for blockbuster Coinbase listing

Illustration of a golden glowing cryptocurrency with the Coinbase C

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Cryptocurrency will come to Wall Street like never before when Coinbase becomes a publicly-traded company on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The listing could value the company at upwards of $100 billion.

  • The valuation will likely “raise tremendous eyebrows, but it'll be one of those kind of ‘OK, Boomer’ moments where if you don't believe in the cult, then the valuation will be mind-boggling for you,” says Hugh Tallents, a financial services consultant at CG42.

Words to watch tomorrow:

  • Direct listing: Unlike in a traditional IPO, Coinbase won’t sell new stock to a vetted group of big investors who then sell their shares into the market. Instead, the company will let current shareholders directly sell on the stock exchange from Day 1. It’s the first of its kind to happen on the Nasdaq.
  • Selling shareholders: People who already own Coinbase shares, including employees, get to sell from the start instead of being subject to the usual multi-month lockup with an IPO. This setup could also make the price volatile on the first day, though that didn't happen in prior direct listings for companies like Slack.
  • Reference price: This is the share price that the exchange estimates for the company’s stock, typically announced the night before the listing. It’s not an IPO price, so it’s not an actual selling price.

The big picture: The Coinbase listing catapults crypto into the mainstream and will be seen as a major test for the industry's legitimacy.

By the numbers: Bitcoin prices are at a record high. Exactly one year ago, you could buy one bitcoin for $6,880. Now it’ll cost you more than $59,000.

What it means: Boom times for Coinbase, whose Q1 numbers show revenue was 40 times higher in the first three months of this year than all of last year.

What they’re saying: “Investing in Coinbase is not for the faint of heart, as the business — and the stock — will likely see dramatic, potentially protracted, swings,” MoffettNathanson’s Lisa Ellis, one of the first on Wall Street to initiate coverage on the stock, wrote in a note today.

  • It’s worth noting, of course, that Ellis is still bullish on the stock.
  • Coinbase executives said last week it uses stretches of high profits to prepare its balance sheet for so-called "crypto winters."

One stat to go: Nearly three-fourths of fund managers say Bitcoin is in a bubble — compared with the 7% who say the same about the stock market, per a new Bank of America survey out today.

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