Grayscale Investments close to filing application for spot bitcoin ETF, source says

Finance

Michael Sonnenshein, chief executive officer of Grayscale Investments LLC, speaks virtually during a Crypto Summit Feb. 25, 2021.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Grayscale Investments plans on filing an application to convert the world’s biggest bitcoin fund into a spot ETF early next week, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The investment firm had intended to file its application to the Securities and Exchange Commission as soon as the agency allowed efforts by competitors for a futures-based bitcoin ETF, said the person. That happened late Friday.

The Grayscale application begins a 75-day review period, said the source, who declined to be identified because the New York-based company hasn’t disclosed its plans.

If approved, Grayscale’s ETF would be another step in the legitimization of the nascent crypto asset class. Bitcoin has proven resilient, approaching all-time highs over $60,000 on Friday, even after setbacks including being banned by China last month.

The bitcoin-futures ETF’s impending debut, while significant, is considered an inadequate step by some crypto investors because it would be linked to derivative contracts traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange rather than actual bitcoin.

Grayscale’s spot Bitcoin application, however, represents an investment that is backed by bitcoins, not derivatives tied to it.

Grayscale has a significant chunk of the world’s bitcoin holdings in storage for its trust known by the GBTC ticker. GBTC had $38.7 billion in assets under management as of Friday.

The company, a pioneer in crypto investing which enabled institutional investors like Ark Invest’s Cathie Wood to bet on bitcoin, originally publicly filed for an ETF in January 2017. It withdrew the application in October of that year after the SEC indicated that it wasn’t yet comfortable with the bitcoin market.

Grayscale’s move could be an attempt to force the SEC’s hand. If they are comfortable with bitcoin futures, regulators should also be comfortable with the underlying market, the thinking goes, according to the source.

Of course, the SEC could still choose to delay or reject the Grayscale application.

Last month, Grayscale’s CEO publicly criticized the SEC’s apparent preference for futures-based ETFs, calling it a “shortsighted” move that could harm investors.

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