Costumed characters pass the Nasdaq MarketSite during the Coinbase IPO, in New York's Times Square, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Wall Street will be focused on Coinbase Wednesday with the digital currency exchange becoming a publicly traded company. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Coinbase soars in market debut, valued near $100 billion

Coinbase made a rousing debut on Wall Street Wednesday, with the digital currency exchange’s rising as high as $429, briefly giving it a market value over $100 billion.

Coinbase Global Inc.‘s initial public offering comes with cryptocurrency chatter seemingly everywhere, even at the U.S. Federal Reserve. Digital currencies are being incorporated into business plans and accepted by major corporations like Tesla, PayPal and Visa.

The San Francisco-based company’s listing on a public stock exchange is seen by some as an inflection point for digital currencies, as Coinbase’s fortunes are closely tied to Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency. Bitcoin’s price has topped $63,000, up from $29,000 at the start of the year, and Coinbase said recently that first-quarter revenue should total around $1.8 billion, exceeding its revenue for all of 2020.

Shares of Coinbase are listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker “COIN,” and were trading around $376 after about 40 minutes of trading, putting its market value around $98.2 billion.

That market value makes Coinbase one of the biggest publicly traded U.S. companies — just 83 companies in the S&P 500 index have market values above $100 billion. Coinbase’s value is greater than the combined market value of Nasdaq Inc., which runs the Nasdaq Stock Market, and Intercontinental Exchange, which owns the New York Stock Exchange.

Founded in 2012, Coinbase became popular among cryptocurrency fans by providing them with an easier way to exchange shares of Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Coinbase said it had 56 million verified users as of March 31, with 6.1 million making transactions monthly. Trading volume in the first quarter was $335 million.

Coinbase earns 0.5% of the value of every transaction that goes through its system. So if someone buys $100 in Bitcoin, Coinbase earns 50 cents. If Bitcoin or Etherium prices drop, the commissions Coinbase earns drop as well, giving it some exposure to the digital currencies’ rise and fall.

Instead of using a traditional IPO, Coinbase went public through a public listing. That means it avoided the typical agreements with big banks that would buy thousands of shares and promote them. A direct listing allows insiders and early investors to convert their stakes in the company into publicly traded stock.

Other recent direct listings include the music streaming service Spotify in 2018, the messaging service Slack in 2019 and the data-mining company Palantir Technologies in 2020.

Shares of Coinbase should attract investors who want to get into the cryptocurrency space in addition to, or without buying any coins at all, said Lule Demmissie, president of Ally Invest.

“It could also be a less volatile security than the coins themselves,” Demmissie says.

Still, not everyone is buying into the Coinbase hype. David Trainer, CEO of investment research firm New Constructs, said Coinbase has “little-to-no-chance of meeting the future profit expectations that are baked into its ridiculously high valuation.”

Trainer last week put a valuation on Coinbase closer to $18.9 billion, arguing it will face more competition as the cryptocurrency market matures.

However Dan Ives, of Wedbush, sees Coinbase as a window into the future.

“Coinbase is a foundational piece of the crypto ecosystem and is a barometer for the growing mainstream adoption of Bitcoin and crypto for the coming years,” Ives said.

Michelle Chapman And Alex Veiga, The Associated Press

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