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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase on Thursday filed to go public via a direct listing. It includes a placeholder figure of $1 billion, but that's likely to change.

Why it matters: Coinbase could go public at a higher initial valuation than any other U.S. tech company since Facebook.

  • It was recently valued at over $100 billion via the latest in a series of secondary share sales, which were partially designed to help the company determine a reference price for its direct listing.
  • But, but, but: The initial secondary share sale, held Jan. 29, valued Coinbase at only $54 billion. In other words, good luck to those trying to determine a valid reference price.

Financials: Coinbase reports $322 million of profits on $1.28 billion in revenue for 2020, compared to a $30 million net loss on $534 million in revenue for 2019. That's right, this one can claim a more legit unicorn title because it's actually profitable.

  • It has more than $1 billion of cash on hand, which helps explain why it feels no pressure to do a traditional IPO.
  • It claimed to have $90 billion of crypto assets on its platform as of year-end 2020, which represented an 11.1% share of the total crypto market. Around 70% of that was Bitcoin.
  • Coinbase has been working to increase its non-investing revenue, via storage, lending and other subscription products. That alt revenue more than doubled to $44 million last year, but that still represented just 3.5% of total 2020 revenue.

Investors: Coinbase raised around $525 million in VC funding, most recently in late 2018 at an $8 billion valuation. Its largest outside shareholders are Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, Ribbit Capital and Tiger Global.

Risk factor: Congress, if it doesn't confirm Gary Gensler as SEC chair next month.

  • Gensler is on record as calling Bitcoin "a modern form of gold," which means he views it as an asset instead of a security. That's very important for Coinbase, given its stated opposition to trading securities and its reliance on Bitcoin.
  • Were Gensler's nomination to fail, it might take a bite out of crypto confidence.

Worth noting: The company claims 2.8 million monthly transacting users, and a total of 43 million verified users.

The bottom line: Coinbase going public should help further legitimize the crypto industry, particularly among institutional investors.

Go deeper: Coinbase valued above $100 billion

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said the float would be $1 billion, rather than specifying that it's a placeholder figure.

Go deeper

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

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