For years, trading app Robinhood listed just a handful of cryptocurrencies. Over the past month, it’s brought that number to 11, and it’s now also making available two equities assets tied to the price of crypto.
GBTC and ETHE are investment products that trade like a stock and allow investors to get exposure to the price of Bitcoin and Ethereum, respectively, without actually having to buy them. Investment firm Grayscale takes care of the custody in exchange for a management fee, and buyers get a “share” of Bitcoin or Ethereum—or something like it.
But while both GBTC and ETHE are ostensibly tied to the price of the underlying cryptocurrencies, they rarely trade on a 1:1 basis. Part of the reason for the difference in price is long lockup periods; when large holders eventually sell, it can affect the price on the open market.
That discrepancy may help explain why Robinhood traders—who don’t have to worry about custody issues as it is—may be interested in the assets: They can get them for cheap and hope the gap closes.
If the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accepts Grayscale’s proposal to transition the Bitcoin trust into a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund—that heavy discount would likely disappear as ETFs’ structure allows them to trade much closer to the underlying asset’s price. The SEC, however, has yet to approve any Bitcoin-backed ETFs not based on BTC futures, which are investment contracts based on the anticipated future price of Bitcoin.
Since Robinhood Crypto COO Christine Brown’s departure from the company at the end of March, the brokerage has rolled out several major additions to its digital asset offerings.
In April, it added Compound, Polygon, Shiba Inu, and Solana to its available listings of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin SV, Dogecoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, and Litecoin. A week before, at the Bitcoin 2022 Conference, it announced its intention to use the Lightning Network for sending quicker, cheaper BTC transactions. It simultaneously revealed that users would be able to transfer their crypto assets off of Robinhood—something the company’s executive had been promising since early 2021.
Cryptocurrency has been one of the few bright spots for the brokerage company, which reported an 18% drop in revenue for Q1 and recently laid off 9% of its staff. Cryptocurrency revenue, though, was up from $48 million to $54 million for the quarter (but still down 39% from a year-to-year comparison).
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