Cryptocurrencies are heading for a 90 percent correction in 'mass market wipe out,' investment bank warns

  • Cryptocurrencies will experience a "heavy correction" of 90 percent leading to a "mass market wipe out," technology investment bank GP Bullhound predicted in a report.
  • Report author Sebastian Markowsky explained there could be "panic" among investors who have bought into them while prices were high.
  • "Nonetheless, once this 'crypto-winter' passes, the growth dynamics for the precious few survivors will be unprecedented," Markowsky wrote in his report.

Cryptocurrencies will experience a "heavy correction" of 90 percent leading to a "mass market wipe out," a technology investment bank predicted in a report seen by CNBC on Wednesday.

GP Bullhound's "Token Frenzy: The Fuel of the Blockchain" report laid out the current state of cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, initial coin offerings (ICO) and what they think the future will look like.

One prediction is that cryptocurrencies will experience a 90 percent correction within the next 12 months with "very few companies" surviving.

Sebastian Markowsky, a director at GP Bullhound, and main author of the report, explained that institutional investors are likely to come into the market and drive the price higher. More retail investors will get in to the market too, buying cryptocurrencies at elevated prices. As the market begins to see sharp falls later this year, it will exacerbate the selling causing "panic" and the eventual correction.

"Nonetheless, once this 'crypto-winter' passes, the growth dynamics for the precious few survivors will be unprecedented," Markowsky wrote in his report.

There are over 1,000 cryptocurrencies on the market with many new ones being created all the time. Bitcoin still remains the biggest by market capitalization, followed by ethereum and ripple. After hitting record highs at the end of last year, these cryptocurrencies suffered large falls in the first quarter of 2018, but have slowly started to recover.

The value and fate of cryptocurrencies has been fiercely debated over the past year. Noted economist Nouriel Roubini predicted that bitcoin would crash to zero. Warren Buffett has also struck a pessimistic note on cryptocurrencies.

"In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say with almost certainty that they will come to a bad ending," Buffett told CNBC in January.

Experts suggest that there are a number of factors that could drive prices higher this year, but admit the behavior of investors will ultimately still determine the price.

"We are going to see four factors at play this year — regulation, increasing interconnectedness of markets, more types and varieties of instruments and the arrival of institutional money. These add fuel to the fire as well as bringing efficiency to the playing field," Charlie Hayter, CEO of CryptoCompare, a data website for the industry, told CNBC by email on Wednesday.

"The industry has resiliency in terms of its infrastructure but is still subject to the whims of behavioral sentiment."

Still, there are a number of voices that are still bullish on cryptocurrencies. Thomas Lee, co-founder and head of research at Fundstrat, said that bitcoin could hit $25,000 this year, which is 172 percent upside from Wednesday's high of $9,182.43.

ICOs here to stay

GP Bullhound's report also explores the rise of the initial coin offering (ICO). This is where a start-up issues a new digital token in exchange for money in order to raise funds. The investors would get this token which usually doesn't give equity in the company, but instead promises returns in the future or has some kind of use on the platform that is being built.

ICOs raised over $4 billion in 2017, according to GP Bullhound. But at the same time, there have been a number of high-profile scams in the space. One which was uncovered by CNBC involved scammers running off with over $2 million of investor money.

GP Bullhound predicted that ICO funding will continue but mature. While many investors invest in ICOs without the company even showing a product, that could be about to change.

"Raising money on the back of a whitepaper will not be possible. I think people will need to see more product, the bar will be rising very fast," Markowsky told CNBC by phone.

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