Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global finally went public Wednesday afternoon at a valuation of nearly $100 billion, as the company takes advantage of surging demand (and prices) for bitcoin, ethereum and other digital currencies.
Coinbase shares began trading at $381 a share, a more than 50% jump from the reference price for its stock of $250 a share. The stock quickly surged to a high of nearly $430 before pulling back to close at about $328 – an increase of just over 30%.
At that price, Coinbase is worth about $86 billion.
The company listed its shares directly on the Nasdaq (NDAQ), as opposed to selling new stock through an initial public offering. That’s also how Roblox, Palantir and Spotify (SPOT) went public. (Fun fact: Coinbase is now worth more than three times the value of Nasdaq (NDAQ) and also has a higher market value than New York Stock Exchange parent company Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).)
Many market observers predicted the stock would rise sharply from its $250 reference price because the company is already profitable, has rapidly rising sales and a growing number of customers.
“When it comes to Coinbase, this is pretty much the crypto event of the year,” said Jean-Marie Mognetti, CEO of CoinShares, a European digital asset manager whose stock recently began trading on the Nasdaq Nordic exchange. “It shows that bitcoin is for everyone.”
The IPO also turned Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong into a mega-billionaire. At Wednesday’s closing price, his 39.6 million shares are worth just under $13 billion.
Coinbase is riding the crypto wave. Bitcoin prices have more than doubled this year and are currently trading near a record price of about $62,000.
Ehtereum, the second most valuable cryptocurrency, has nearly tripled thanks in part to the fact that it is the digital payment of choice used in transactions for non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
Bitcoin prices have also gotten a lift thanks to investments from big companies like Elon Musk’s Tesla (TSLA) and MicroStrategy (MSTR) as well as endorsements for the cryptocurrency space by large financial firms such as MasterCard (MA), PayPal (PYPL) and Bank of New York Mellon (BK).
“The Coinbase listing should bring further attention to cryptocurrencies and will help further legitimize it,” said Rachid Ajaja, CEO of AllianceBlock, a blockchain capital markets firm. “You also have more and more financial institutions coming into crypto.”
That’s why one early Coinbase investor said that even if the stock surges during its first few days, it still might be a good buy.
“Would we be Coinbase investors at a valuation of $100 billion? Yes,” said Matthew Le Merle, managing partner of Fifth Era & Blockchain Coinvestors, a fund of funds that invested in Coinbase after a venture financing round that valued the company at $8 billion a few years ago.
Le Merle said that buying Coinbase now could turn out to be like investing in Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN) or Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL) when they first went public.
Competitors are excited about the Coinbase listing as well.
“The Coinbase debut is a really important event in the maturation of the crypto industry. It has built a strong business and the market is believing that,” said Steve Ehrlich, CEO of Voyager Digital (VYGVF), a crypto asset broker. “This is just the beginning.”