Bitcoin's market cap now more than fortunes of Buffett and Gates

HONG KONG • Bitcoin's extraordinary price surge means its market capitalisation now exceeds the annual output of whole economies, and the estimated worth of some of the world's top billionaires.

With the debate over its bubble status still raging, the flagship cryptocurrency continued its climb yesterday, solidifying above US$11,000 (S$14,835) and bringing its rise this year to more than 1,000 per cent.

With market tracker Coinmarketcap.com putting the total value of all bitcoins in circulation at US$190 billion, it's come a long way from August, when one coin could buy you a hefty supply of avocados.

Here are five things that have been eclipsed by bitcoin in terms of market capitalisation:

NEW ZEALAND'S GDP

The South Pacific nation's farm-and tourism-led economy is valued at US$185 billion, according to World Bank data as of July, putting it some US$5 billion below bitcoin. Bitcoin's market cap is also bigger than the likes of Qatar, Kuwait and Hungary.

GOLDMAN SACHS AND UBS

Bitcoin's run-up has even seen it valued more highly than two of the world's most influential banks.

Goldman Sachs Group's market cap was US$97 billion as of last Friday, while Zurich-based UBS Group came in at about US$67 billion. Add those numbers together and it still falls short of bitcoin.

Both financial heavyweights have taken a hands-off approach to the digital currency, with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein saying it is too early to draft a bitcoin strategy and UBS - the world's biggest wealth manager - saying it won't allocate it in portfolios because of the threat of a government crackdown.

BOEING

It may make jumbo jets, but Boeing's market cap of US$162 billion is also less than that of a digital currency that did not exist 10 years ago. The Chicago-based company is more than a century old and employs 140,000 people in more than 65 countries.

Rival Airbus fares no better - it has a market value of €66 billion (S$105.6 billion).

FOURTEEN AIRCRAFT CARRIERS

If bitcoin's market cap could be used to buy military equipment, it would pack a mighty punch.

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of nuclear-powered super-carriers, was delivered to the US Navy in May. It cost an estimated US$13 billion, so if investors put all their bitcoins together, they would be able to buy a fleet of fourteen ships.

BILL GATES, BUFFETT AND THE QUEEN

They sit atop Bloomberg's Billionaires Index, but even if Mr Bill Gates and Mr Warren Buffett pooled their fortunes, they wouldn't have enough to buy all the bitcoins in circulation.

Mr Gates is worth US$90 billion and Mr Buffett has US$83 billion, according to the index.

Not even Queen Elizabeth II could get them over the line if she brought her US$383 million to the table.

Mr Buffett has called bitcoin a "real bubble" in the past.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2017, with the headline 'Bitcoin's market cap now more than fortunes of Buffett and Gates'. Print Edition | Subscribe