Bitcoin enthusiasts itching to invest in the digital currency via an exchange-traded fund finally got their wish, though it’s not quite what everyone expected.
ARK Investment Management LLC on Tuesday announced its ARK Web x.0 ETF (ARKW) has become the first ETF to invest in bitcoin, the digital currency that some people believe will upend the world of money.
The ARKW fund entered the bitcoin space by buying shares in Grayscale's Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), a publicly traded vehicle that invests in––and derives its value from––the price of bitcoin.
The bitcoin concept, which started percolating in the late-1990s, is an open-source digital payment system being shaped by developers around the world. The peer-to-peer payment network has no centralized authority, which raises concerns among many people even as interest in bitcoin grows.
The Bitcoin Investment Trust was established two years ago, and began trading publicly on May 4 on the OTCQX, part of the OTC Markets Group. News accounts this summer detailed some problems surrounding the trust, such as inconsistent tracking of bitcoin’s price and a wide spread between prices of the trust and its underlying assets.
As of Tuesday’s closing price of $30, GBTC is down more than 28% from the closing price on its initial trading day. In addition, GBTC’s shares trade at a roughly 25 percent premium to the trust’s net asset value, which means anyone investing in GBTC now must be very bullish on bitcoin's long-term prospects.
And evidently that applies to Ark Investment Management. Cathie Wood, ARK's founder and chief investment officer, said in a press statement her company feels that current prices present “an attractive entry point for our investors."
Based in New York City, Ark specializes in thematic investing and has rolled out a suite of four ETFs focused on innovation and disruptive technologies. The inclusion of the Bitcoin Investment Trust in its ARK Web x.0 ETF is part of its belief that bitcoin could, in its words, “disrupt the $500 billion intermediary payment platform industry which includes credit cards, electronic payments and remittances, and might empower the creation of a new group of companies and industries.”
While the ARK ETF offers investors an entrée to bitcoin in a fund product, investors have been waiting for a couple of years for the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF (COIN) to come to market. That fund is the creation of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twin brothers who took Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to court over their claim he stole their idea for the social network.
The COIN ETF has yet to get approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission.