Coinbase to Raise $1.5 Billion in Bond Sale
Coinbase Global Inc. is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in its first junk-bond offering, a deal that provides another stamp of approval for cryptocurrency and a sign that the nine-year-old firm is gaining mainstream acceptance even as regulators ramp up scrutiny.
The deal would provide cheap financing for the cryptocurrency exchange, which just received a warning from regulators about its plans to expand into the lending business. The bonds earned a BB+ rating from S&P Global Ratings and a Ba1 from Moody’s Investors Service, just one notch below investment grade.
In early pricing discussions, investors are evaluating yields in the low-4% range for the 10-year portion, according to people with knowledge of the matter. That’s above the 2.89% average for companies with a similar credit rating that typically frequent the bond markets to raise cash. Coinbase had received at least $2.4 billion of demand from investors for the notes by early afternoon, Bloomberg reported.
A successful bond sale would be a major step for Coinbase, and underscores how crypto is becoming more widely accepted. For investors, the debt offers a way to get in on an industry that for the most part has turned to the equity markets for financing. Another motivation: Historically low interest rates are pushing many bond investors to search for yield in non-traditional sectors.
“You are going to see more cryptocurrency companies tapping the capital markets and receiving a warm response,” Mark Palmer, an analyst at BTIG, said in an interview. “There aren’t many ways through which fixed-income investors can access the cryptocurrency markets. Now we have one more.”
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is leading the deal, which may price as soon as Tuesday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The bond offering also includes a seven-year tranche.
The capital raise will bolster the company’s balance sheet with proceeds earmarked for general corporate purposes. Those may include continued investments in product development, as well as potential investments in or acquisitions of other companies, products or technology, the company said. The deal will add almost $1.5 billion of cash to the balance sheet, for a total of about $5.85 billion, according to a copy of the offering memorandum seen by Bloomberg News.
“They’re an early stage company in terms of their age, but they’re not an early stage company in terms of their revenue and development,” Christopher White, chief executive officer of financial-services firm ViableMkts, said in an interview. “As the entire crypto asset becomes legitimized across the globe, the thoughts turn to how are you going to trade it, and Coinbase is already there.”
Coinbase, which went public earlier this year, ended the second quarter with $4.4 billion in cash and cash equivalents, and about $1.5 billion in non-current liabilities. The company is facing increasing competitive pressure from a slew of new and upcoming entrants, such as FTX.US and Bullish, whose backers are flush with cash. Bullish, due to launch later this year, is expected to be bankrolled with $10 billion in funding.
Extra cash could also help Coinbase expand internationally and increase the slate of services it offers. The company got a setback recently after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it would sue if Coinbase launches its new interest-bearing account called Lend.
For many high-yield bond investors, cryptocurrencies and related assets remain a tough sell. Some money managers who declined to participate in Coinbase’s offering and who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak publicly said that they were unconvinced about the company’s long-term prospects. They said they’re also unsure of Coinbase’s ability to stave off competition as digital currencies become more widely accepted and its resilience in the face of sudden drops in the price of Bitcoin.
“We regard the company’s very low leverage, strong liquidity, a solid market share of crypto assets on its platform and a strong track record of avoiding security breaches since inception as rating strengths,” S&P said in a statement Monday. “These are balanced by its reliance on retail transaction revenue, elevated volatility in the asset class, and competitive risk in a nascent asset class.”
Moody’s cited the firm’s “leading franchise in offering crypto-based services to a large number of retail and institutional customers,” and said Coinbase has benefitted from strong revenue and earnings growth.
Coinbase is also growing through acquisitions. Just this year, it bought analytics provider Skew and crypto cloud service Bison Trails.
Cryptocurrency markets are highly volatile, adding a layer of risk for investors in the industry. The world’s biggest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is up more than 50% since the beginning of the year -- ranging between about $28,000 and $65,000. Smaller cryptocurrencies tend to swing even more. Coinbase’s shares are down less than 1% since their April debut, though they had shot higher right after their direct listing, before falling over the next month.
Companies are storming the bond market, taking advantage of an attractive funding environment. Borrowing costs are expected to rise when the Federal Reserve begins tapering its support for financial markets. MicroStrategy Inc. sold the first ever junk bond to fund Bitcoin purchases in June. Its $500 million of bonds due in 2028 have risen since then to over 102 cents on the dollar, according to Trace pricing data.
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