If you want to buy Bitcoin without actually buying Bitcoin, you now have another way to own the controversial digital currency.
No, it’s not the U.S. exchange-traded fund investors have been touting as a catalyst for demand for the embattled virtual money. It’s an exchange-traded note, and starting Wednesday, investors can buy it more easily even though it’s technically listed and regulated in Sweden. The product, called Bitcoin Tracker One, is now quoted in U.S. dollars under the ticker CXBTF, helping brokerages offer it to American investors. It started trading on the Nasdaq Stockholm exchange in 2015.
This is a soft opening of sorts for a crypto ETF, which has been repeatedly shot down by U.S. regulators in recent months amid concerns about manipulation and liquidity. Cboe Global Markets Inc.’s request to list a fund designed by digital entrepreneurs Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss was denied last month, while a decision on a rival product from fund providers VanEck Associates Corp. and SolidX Partners Inc. was pushed back until at least September.
“Everyone that’s investing in dollars can now get exposure to these products, whereas before, they were only available in euros or Swedish krona,” said Ryan Radloff, the chief executive officer of CoinShares Holdings Ltd., the parent of the company that offers the ETN. “Given the current climate on the regulatory front in the U.S., this is a big win for Bitcoin.”
Trading Bitcoin Tracker One is now similar to buying an American depositary receipt, in that traders will see a foreign-listed asset in U.S. dollars. Investors can purchase so-called F shares, which means that while the trades are executed in U.S. dollars, they are settled, cleared and held in custody in its home market, according to OTC Markets Group.
Unlike exchange-traded funds, ETNs are debt instruments that are backed by their issuers — often a bank — rather than a pool of assets and often focus on esoteric strategies that don’t easily fit in a fund. Bitcoin Tracker One may give investors an alternative to Grayscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, which also offers exposure to Bitcoin. The Grayscale product trades at a significant premium to the underlying asset.
“I do see this as a competitive product,” Radloff said. “Our products historically have not traded at a premium and are liquid.”
Bitcoin Tracker One has slumped 51 percent this year amid the collapse in prices of cryptocurrencies. The notes are issued by XBT Provider AB, a subsidiary of U.K.-based CoinShares Holdings, which purchases the relevant amount of Bitcoin needed.
A spokesperson from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment.
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