World’s first bitcoin mining IPO falls short

The world's first fundraising for an initial public offering (IPO) of a company that "mines" bitcoins has raised 5.9 million Australian dollars ($4.2 million) — far off its target of 20 million Australian dollars.

The Bitcoin Group, based in Melbourne, Australia, announced on Tuesday that it had raised 5,927,168.40 Australian dollars in a bookbuild for its listing on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).


Bitcoin digital abstract
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Although the amount raised was less than a third of the target, Bitcoin Group CEO Sam Lee said it was a "solid result."

"It is sufficient for the company to execute its current strategy of expanding our footprint through acquiring new mining equipment," he told CNBC on Tuesday.

Read MoreBitcoin: CNBC Explains

Bitcoin is a digital currency that allows users to exchange online credits for goods and services. Because there is no central bank, bitcoins are "released" online through a process known as mining. The process is carried out by a decentralized network of computers, which compete with one another to match transactions with the amount of the currency in circulation. Whichever computer gets the calculations correct, can then claim the transaction fees on the newly released bitcoins.

Bitcoin Group is yet to quote on the ASX, although this was scheduled to take place on Tuesday. It is expected to trade under the ticker BCG.

Shares were priced at 0.20 Australian dollars, with minimum subscription of 2,000 Australian dollars and no maximum subscription.

Read MoreIPO: CNBC Explains

Bitcoin Group was incorporated in September 2014 and it's the first time the management has led a publicly-listed entity. Lee's background is in financial services and digital media.

There are a number of concerns surrounding bitcoin: It is renowned for its volatility and has been heavily criticized for facilitating illegal activity, given that it can be used anonymously. There is also high competition in the industry and uncertainty regarding the regulatory and legal treatment of the currency. The Australian Taxation Office's stance is that bitcoin is an asset for capital gains tax purposes.

"As an investor I would think twice before investing in a bitcoin mining company," Nicholas Debock, a venture capitalist at Balderton Capital in London, told CNBC on Tuesday.

"Overall, in the bitcoin space, we saw a lot of venture capitalists investing in bitcoin in the last three years, but we don't yet see money coming out," he later added.

Read MoreHow to mine bitcoins on your own: CNBC Explains

Bitcoin Group produces around 1.2 percent of the global bitcoin mining output across six mining sites in China and Iceland. The vast majority of its operations are conducted in China, which like the Nordic countries, has a cheap electricity supply. However, this lack of diversification could leave it vulnerable to regulatory changes in the country's stance on bitcoin.

If the company had raised the hoped-for 20 million Australian dollars, it planned to use 18 million Australian dollars to invest in mining equipment and facilities, with 2 million Australian dollars for general corporate purposes, including listing costs.

"There are still a lot of people that believe in bitcoin in the long-term, either as an asset or just the technology… But that's definitely a long-term play," Debock told CNBC.

—Matthew Clinch contributed to this story.