Bear Market Is Helping Crypto Lending Businesses to Prosper

On Wednesday (2 June 2019), Bloomberg reported that while "a growing number of cryptocurrency ventures struggle for funding" in the current bear market, crypto lending businesses seem to be "thriving" rather than suffering.

Crypto lending businesses that primarily focus on the needs of individual HODLers (who might need a loan, for example, to buy a car or pay their taxes), such as Salt Ledning, allow you to borrow fiat currency (usually USD) or fiat-backed stablecoins using your crypto as collateral, while others, such as Genesis Capital, that mainly focus on institutional borrowing, can lend crypto (against fiat). 

The Bloomberg report says that these lenders are saying that "they’re finding strong demand from borrowers who don’t want to sell their virtual coins at depressed prices, as well as from big investors eager to borrow coins for short selling." Here are three examples:

  • "BlockFi says its revenues and customer base have grown 10-fold since June, when Michael Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital Ventures invested $52.5 million."
  • "Aave, which owns online crypto-lending marketplace ETHLend, just opened an office in London, plans to enter the U.S. soon and is nearing profitability."
  • "Salt Lending, which already employs 80 people, said it’s hiring more every month as its revenue ticks higher."

Bloomberg says that, initially, crypto lending startups, most of which were reportedly launched in 2017, were "offering enthusiasts a way to borrow cash without having to sell down their stockpiles of Bitcoin or other crypto assets they believed would soar even higher," but after "prices crashed in 2018," they "pivoted into new roles and continued to flourish," and this type of crypto business may in fact "fare even better in bad times than good."

Michael Moro, the CEO of Genesis Capital, told Bloomberg in a phone interview:

“The bear market has certainly helped -- at least has fueled the growth... We’ve been profitable from day one... We’ve certainly proven that there is market demand, that there’s product fit and that it’s time to invest even more in this side of the business.”

Moro also said that Genesis Capital "has already issued $700 million of loans" and that it currently has "about $140 million in loans outstanding with an average duration of six weeks." Apparently, Genesis is planning "to more than double its staff in the coming year to as many as 12 people, and it’s looking at growing in regions such as Asia."

Their loan terms are a follows:

  • "Minimum loan size is $100,000"
  • "Fixed durations from two weeks to six months"
  • "USD collateral accepted to back loan"

Bloomberg says that Genesis "typically requires customers to deposit around $1.2 million in fiat to take out $1 million of crypto," and that if an institution wishes to borrow Bitcoin, for example, it is charged "an annual rate of between 10 percent and 12 percent."

According to Bloomberg:

  • Businesses that accept crypto as collateral for fiat cash loans "usually demand much larger buffers to ensure they don’t get burned by falling prices." For example, Zac Prince, the CEO of BlockFi, told them that his firm "typically requires customers deposit $10,000 of digital coins to take out $5,000 in fiat."
  • When the price of the crypto collateral falls, "customers face margin calls, often starting with a warning that their holdings may be sold off soon." In the case of BlockFi, "margin calls are triggered if the price of the crypto collateral falls by 35 to 60 percent from the time the loan was granted," and approximately "20 percent of the startups’ loans faced margin calls last year."

BlockFi says this is what happens if the value of your cryptoassets significantly change during one year term of the loan:

"If the value of your coins significantly increase then they are kept in storage until the loan is paid. If your coins significantly decrease then that sets off a trigger event, and you will have to add more collateral to your account to maintain a minimum LTV ratio. You can use the value of your cryptoassets stored with BlockFi to make principal and interest payments at anytime. We plan to add the ability to draw more USD funds in the event of price appreciation over time."

And here is how BlockFi defines a trigger event:

"A trigger event happens when the value of your collateral drops and thus increases the LTV of your loan. The first trigger event occurs at a 70% LTV, which would require a 50% drop from the price at loan initiation. At this point, you have 72 hours to take action by positing additional collateral or paying down the loan balance. We will keep you informed if your LTV starts to near the 70% mark so you can take action preemptively."

One happy customer of BlockFi is Angela Ceresnie, the CEO of Climb Credit. She says:

"The ability to get liquidity on my significant Bitcoin and Ethereum holdings, without selling them, is something that I was looking for and found with BlockFi. For long term holders like myself, the tax benefits alone make the value proposition a no brainer."

 

Featured Image Credit: Photo via Pexels.com

Russia Will Not Legalize Facebook's Libra Says Top Official

A top Moscow official has said that Facebook's planned new cryptocurrency Libra will not be legalized Russia, according to a report this week from Russia's state-run news agency TASS.

Anatoly Aksakov, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Financial Markets, said Russia would not legalise the Libra stablecoin, due for launch next year, as it may pose a threat to the country's financial system.

No Russian Liberty for Libra

While Aksakov acknowledged Russians would be able to buy Libra on international cryptocurrency exchange platforms, he warned that the creation of any domestic mechanisms of exchange would be limited, or even prohibited.

TASS quoted Aksakov as saying:

With regard to the use of Facebook cryptocurrency as a payment instrument in Russia at this stage - my opinion is that in our country it will be banned.

He added that in Russia there were no plans to adopt legislation that "gives space for active use of crypto-tools created in the framework of open platforms and blockchains" that may pose a threat to Russia's financial system.

International Ministers Speak Out

Aksakov is not the first financial minister to express concerns over Facebook's cryptocurrency plans and their potential to damage sovereign currency markets and financial stability.

On Tuesday, French economy minister Bruno Le Maire, said that global governments must ask Facebook for "guarantees" that Libra will not be aimed as a disruptive force against sovereign currencies.

Facebook's plans have US government and regulatory officials so rattled that a Senate hearing by the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has been scheduled for July 16. The government has asked Facebook to halt work on the project until the hearings have been held.

Sherrod Brown, senior Senator for Ohio and the Democratic Party's ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, said on his Twitter feed on Tuesday: "Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy. We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight."

While Aksakov has major concerns about the growth of the cryptocurrency sector, Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev said on Wednesday that the Russian government was set to adopt the country's crypto bill "On Digital Financial Assets" in the next two weeks.