The 9 Public Companies With the Biggest Bitcoin Portfolios – Decrypt

In brief

  • Institutional investors are increasingly buying up Bitcoin.
  • Several major firms—most recently Tesla—have collectively purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the cryptocurrency.
  • They include investment funds holding Bitcoin on behalf of investors, and companies that have bought Bitcoin as a reserve asset.

In the last few months, reports that major institutional investors are scooping up Bitcoin (BTC) in droves have added fire to what can now be considered the biggest crypto bull run since 2017.

Several major firms have collectively purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin, while retail interest in Bitcoin has also skyrocketed—with news of Tesla’s $1.5 billion Bitcoin investment pushing the price of BTC to a new all-time high.

In January 2021, inflows into Bitcoin and other crypto investment products hit $1.3 billion, according to asset management firm CoinShares.

As Bitcoin continues its meteoric growth, we take a look at the companies who are stockpiling the cryptocurrency—both on behalf of investors as funds, and as a reserve asset.

Publicly traded companies

These publicly-traded firms have adopted Bitcoin as a reserve asset, and hold direct control over their Bitcoin funds.

MicroStrategy

MicroStrategy, a prominent business analytics platform, has adopted Bitcoin as its primary reserve asset.

In February 2021, the firm—which produces mobile software and cloud-based services—continued its Bitcoin buying spree with a purchase of 295 BTC; it now holds 71,079 BTC in reserve, equivalent to over $3 billion in BTC. At one point, MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor said, he was buying $1,000 in Bitcoin every second.

Bitcoin distribution by number of addresses. Image: BitInfoCharts

Unlike other CEOs who typically shy away from discussing their personal investments,  Saylor has made it public that he personally holds 17,732 BTC—currently worth over $831 million.

As per data from BitInfoCharts, this positions Saylor among the top 100 Bitcoin owners—assuming it is all held within a single address. It’s something of an about-face for the MicroStrategy CEO, who in 2013 claimed that Bitcoin’s days were numbered.

On New Year’s Eve, 2020, Morgan Stanley revealed that it had purchased 10.9% of MicroStrategy. And MicroStrategy is looking to get other companies invested in Bitcoin; in February 2020, it hosted a Bitcoin for Corporations strand during its World.Now conference, aimed at getting companies up to speed with the crypto asset.

During the conference, Saylor stated that he anticipated an “avalanche of companies” converting their balance sheets into Bitcoin in the coming year.

Speaking at Binance Blockchain Week, Saylor explained why he’d opted for Bitcoin over gold as a reserve asset. “The returns on gold didn’t look nearly as compelling as Bitcoin,” said Saylor, adding, “if you’re looking for a non-fiat derivatives store of value in an inflationary environment, that’s logical that you would settle upon Bitcoin as digital gold.”

Tesla

A Tesla Cybertruck. Image: Tesla

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has joined the ranks of companies holding Bitcoin, with an SEC filing revealing that the company has invested “an aggregate $1.50 billion” in the cryptocurrency. The investment amounts to around 7.7% of Tesla’s $19.384 billion cash holdings, as of Q4 2020.

According to the SEC filing, Tesla’s Bitcoin purchase reflects an updated investment policy aimed at diversifying its cash on hand and maximizing returns. The filing states that, “we may invest a portion of such cash in certain alternative reserve assets including digital assets, gold bullion, gold exchange-traded funds and other assets as specified in the future.”

Tesla also revealed that it expects to begin accepting Bitcoin as payment for its products “in the near future,” leaving open the question of whether it will liquidate or continue to hold the cryptocurrency upon receipt of payment.

The company’s Bitcoin play followed months of speculation, as CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to discuss the cryptocurrency. In late 2020, MicroStrategy’s Saylor offered to share his “playbook” for Bitcoin investing with Musk, after arguing that a move into Bitcoin would be doing Tesla shareholders a “$100 billion favor.”

Soon afterwards, at the end of January 2021, Musk changed his Twitter bio to the #Bitcoin hashtag; in retrospect, seemingly hinting at Tesla’s interest in the cryptocurrency.

Galaxy Digital Holdings

Crypto-focused merchant bank Galaxy Digital Holdings holds 16,402 BTC, according to bitcointreasuries.org—worth just over $770 million at current prices.

Founded by Michael Novogratz in January 2018, the company has partnered with crypto firms including Block.one and BlockFi. Novogratz is, unsurprisingly, a keen advocate for Bitcoin. In April 2020, he noted that stimulus measures announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic were driving interest in cryptocurrencies, calling it Bitcoin’s “moment” and arguing that “money doesn’t grow on trees.”

However, later in the year Novogratz argued that the cryptocurrency’s volatility meant that gold was a safer bet, stating that, “My sense is that Bitcoin way outperforms gold, but I would tell people to hold a lot less than they do gold. Just because of the volatility.”

Funds

These investment funds don’t hold Bitcoin on their own behalf, instead doing so in order to enable accredited investors to gain exposure to Bitcoin without holding or managing the cryptoasset directly.

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust

Grayscale Investments is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the Bitcoin space—and for good reason.

Grayscale has by far the largest Bitcoin portfolio of any institutional investment platform, with over $30 billion in BTC currently under management in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, which trades under “GBTC“.

In total, Grayscale Investments now holds more than 3% of the Bitcoin total supply, with 656,166 BTC currently under management across its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust and the Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund, according to bitcointreasuries.org.

GBTC stock price today

Following a short hiatus, Grayscale reopened its Bitcoin Trust to new investors on January 12, 2021—and promptly bought up 2,172 BTC on its first day back. GBTC shares are currently trading on the OTCQX under the ticker GBTC.

Grayscale founder Barry Silbert is (unsurprisingly) an outspoken Bitcoin advocate and can be frequently found on Twitter highlighting its performance. In January 2020, Silbert stepped down from his role as CEO of the company, handing over the reins to former Barclays analyst Michael Sonnenshein.

CoinShares

CoinShares Group, one of the earliest pioneers in digital asset investments, also joins the list of public companies managing substantial Bitcoin assets.

The company is widely regarded as a pioneer in the cryptocurrency investment industry, and was the first firm to launch a regulated Bitcoin hedge fund and exchange-traded Bitcoin product. Nowadays, CoinShares offers two exchange-traded Bitcoin products: Bitcoin Tracker One and Bitcoin Tracker Euro—both of which can be traded on XBT Provider AB.

As of February 2021, CoinShares’ assets under management include 69,730 BTC—currently worth just over $3.2 billion. Though not quite as impressive as Grayscale’s BTC coffers, CoinShares’ investment still represents over 0.3% of the current Bitcoin circulating supply.

“Investors used to consider it a risk to allocate to Bitcoin. Now it’s a risk not to allocate to Bitcoin,” said CoinShares CEO Jean-Marie Mognetti in a recent press release.

Ruffer Investment Company

London-based asset manager Ruffer Investment Company is one of the most recent firms to join the Bitcoin bandwagon. In December 2020, it allocated 2.5% of its Multi-Strategies Fund to Bitcoin, arguing that the cryptocurrency serves as a “small but potent insurance policy against the continuing devaluation of the world’s major currencies.”

Ruffer’s bet seems to have paid off; its 45,000 BTC, worth around $870 million at the time of purchase, is now worth over $2 billion.

3iQ The Bitcoin Fund

Canadian crypto-asset portfolio manager 3iQ holds 22,590 BTC, worth just over $1 billion, according to bitcointreasuries.org.

Following several years of back and forth with regulators, 3iQ’s Bitcoin fund was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) in April 2020, enabling Canadians to invest in Bitcoin through their regulated investment managers. The Winklevoss twins’ exchange Gemini acts as custodian for the fund.

In September 2020, the regulated BTC fund was listed on the Gibraltar Stock Exchange. “We expect to co-list this fund around the world in major exchanges,” 3iQ President and CEO Fred Pye told Decrypt. “Our vision is for this to be the biggest regulated Bitcoin fund in the world.”

3iQ is also behind a Canadian dollar-backed stablecoin called QCAD, which launched in February 2020.

ETC Group Bitcoin ETP (BTCE)

The world’s first centrally cleared Bitcoin exchange-traded product (ETP), ETC Group’s Bitcoin ETF, BTCE, launched in June 2020 on Deutsche Börse’s Xetra platform. In January 2021 it listed in Zurich on SIX Swiss Exchange, and later that month hit record daily trading volumes of €57 million ($69.1 million).

The fund is physically backed by Bitcoin stored with California-based BitGo Trust, and currently holds 12,840 BTC, worth just over $600 million at today’s prices.

An ETP, or exchange-traded product, is a type of security that tracks an underlying asset or financial instrument; they’re similar to exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which contain a basket of investments and typically track an underlying index.

Speaking to the Financial Times in January 2021, ETC Group co-founder and chief executive Bradley Duke explained that increasingly, institutional investors see Bitcoin as a “safe haven.” He added that, “Bitcoin has always had a retail groundswell, people who have an interest in technology, and it was seen as a Wild West investment. That has really changed in the last six months.”

Bitwise 10 Crypto Index Fund

Launched in December 2020, the 10 Crypto Index Fund is the first publicly traded crypto index fund in the US. It tracks the 10 largest cryptocurrencies, allowing investors to buy shares that represent them.

The fund has seen the strongest demand of all Bitwise products; around three-quarters of its assets under management are Bitcoin, with the fund managing 11,430 BTC, worth around $536 million.

Bitwise CEO Matthew Hougan told Decrypt that his ambition is for the fund to be “the S&P 500 or the FTSE 100 of the crypto space.” Wealth management, he added, is an untapped area of promise for the cryptocurrency space. “In the US it’s about a $15 trillion market, it’s a market that’s aggressively moving towards crypto at this very moment, and that’s what our products are designed to serve,” he said.

Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund

Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust isn’t the only way for its clients to gain exposure to Bitcoin through its investment vehicles. It also runs the Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund, an open-ended fund that give investors exposure to a basket of large-cap digital assets.

The fund is currently made up of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin, with the lion’s share of the fund composed of Bitcoin (81.6% as of January 2021). That Bitcoin amounts to some 7,036 BTC, currently worth over $330 million.

The fund’s weighting has changed slightly, owing to the removal of XRP from the fund in January 2021, with Grayscale selling all its XRP and topping up the other cryptocurrencies in the fund’s basket.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *