Tracker halts plan to trade 'crypto' basket

STOCKHOLM • The creator of the first exchange-traded bitcoin tracker has called a halt on launching a basket of cryptocurrencies to trade on after splits in the blockchain caused uncertainty over what to include.

XBT Provider was not able to launch an exchange-traded product based on a basket as planned late last year, and wanted to wait and see which way the cryptocurrency community moved before acting, according to Mr Laurent Kssis, the company's chief executive officer.

Stockholm-based XBT "didn't have a clue" when it got the regulatory clearance from the Swedish financial supervisory authority back in May about the so-called "forks" that had developed, said Mr Kssis.

"It's important to ask how the community is responding to the split and who's going to support one asset versus the other," said Mr Kssis. "If we get it wrong, these assets will drop and if they're part of the basket, we can't go back because it's in the final term sheet."

A fork happens when the blockchain that a cryptocurrency is based on splits into one underlying and one dominant asset. This can happen due to security upgrades or hacking, among other things.

While a soft fork can be made compatible with the older version, a hard fork cannot.

Bloomberg Intelligence strategist Mike McGlone said: "Hard forks are indicative of some of the primary issues in cryptos pressuring prices."

UNCERTAINTIES AHEAD

It's important to ask how the community is responding to the split and who's going to support one asset versus the other.

MR LAURENT KSSIS, chief executive officer of XBT Provider AB.

He added: "The overall issue is rapidly increasing crypto supply and negative signals for potential institutional investors of how still nascent the market is."

Cryptocurrencies have continued their slide in 2019 after losing about US$500 billion (S$678 billion) in market value last year, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com.

The plunge took hold as widespread adoption failed to materialise, funding from initial coin offerings dried up and profitability of miners, whose servers support bitcoin network's operations, collapsed.

The total market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies is now about US$120 billion.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'Tracker halts plan to trade 'crypto' basket'. Print Edition | Subscribe