Cryptocurrency giant Bitmain reveals profits and IPO plan despite slump in bitcoin

  • The Chinese cryptocurrency mining giant released public financial statements for the first time Wednesday, confirming its intention to go public on the Hong Kong stock exchange
  • Bitmain has about 30 percent of its assets in cryptocurrencies, which have nosedived this year.
  • Still, the company is making money — Bitmain raked in $742.7 million in profit during the first half of this year, a nine-fold increase from a year earlier, according to financial statements audited by KPMG.
Technicians make repairs to bitcoin mining machines at a mining facility operated by Bitmain in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Technicians make repairs to bitcoin mining machines at a mining facility operated by Bitmain in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017.

A closely followed, secretive Chinese bitcoin mining giant revealed a little bit more of itself on Wednesday.

After months of speculation about the company's plans, Bitmain released its first-ever public disclosures, confirming its intention to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Bitmain Technologies, founded by billionaires Jihan Wu and Micree Zhan, came on the scene five years ago and rode the cryptocurrency boom to a reported $12 billion valuation after its most recent funding round.

The financial statements released Wednesday, which were the result of an audit by KPMG, answer key questions about the company's financial health as the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have plummeted.

Bitmain made $742.7 million in profit during the first half of this year, marking a nine-fold increase from a year earlier, according the heavily redacted documents. Revenue was up tenfold in the same period, to $2.8 billion as of the end of June, and adjusted return on equity was 58.8 percent.

"Clearly by the numbers, they're quite profitable," said Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of BKCM. Kelly said profitability was a concern for crypto market participants. If Bitmain wasn't making money, some speculated that it would have to sell its holdings to fund operations and that would put pressure on already weak crypto prices.

Although the exact amount isn't disclosed in the papers, Bitmain has publicly bet on Bitcoin Cash. That cryptocurrency rallied 20 percent after the documents were made public, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com.

"They won't have to sell any of their crypto holdings, that's really positive for cryptocurrencies," Kelly said.

Still, this year's crypto bear market is not good news for the company. Bitmain had $886.9 million in cryptocurrency as of the end of June, which makes up 28 percent of its total assets. Though bitcoin briefly rallied above $8,000, it is now trading near $6,500, right around where it was in June.

Bitmain also holds bitcoin. That cryptocurrency is down more than 53 percent this year, while the total market capitalization for cryptpocurrencies has dropped by $400 billion, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com.

Cryptocurrency purists who applaud bitcoin's "decentralized" nature have chafed at Bitmain's power over the market. Despite growing competition, the company still controlled 85 percent of the market for mining chips last year according to Sanford C. Bernstein analysts.

The disclosure also unveiled a group of more than 40 investors. While the majority were Chinese firms the list included subsidiaries of Sequoia Capital, CAS Investment Management and Philippe Laffont's tech-focused Coatue Management.

Despite the downturn in prices, Bitmain's customer base roughly doubled from 2017 to the end of June. The user base was at roughly 6,000 three years ago, and jumped to more than 46,000 in 2017. The firm had more than 80,000 customers as of the end of June, according to the documents.

Bitmains' chips and hardware products support artificial intelligence, the disclosure said, which could be seen as a hedge to any crypto crackdowns in China. The Chinese government has signaled it could crack down on mining, has already restricted cryptocurrency trading and banned initial coin offerings.

"We see a promising future for the application of ASIC chips in AI and will continue focusing on the AI chip market," the documents said.

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