'Crypto civil war' slams bitcoin, but it won't last, says BKCM's Brian Kelly

  • Bitcoin had been coasting in recent months on fairly low volatility until "things exploded" Wednesday, says the cryptocurrency fund manager.
  • Kelly says bitcoin tanked because of concern over a "hard fork" or "effectively a software upgrade" in bitcoin cash.
  • Traders got concerned that the bitcoin and bitcoin cash markets would run into a slow down or "chaos" after the software upgrade.

Bitcoin had been coasting in recent months on fairly low volatility until "things exploded" Wednesday and prices tanked more than 10 percent, BKCM founder and CEO Brian Kelly told CNBC.

Kelly, a cryptocurrency fund manager, said the sharp downturn had to do with bitcoin cash, which splintered off in August 2017 from regular bitcoin with the goal of being able to process more transactions.

Bitcoin cash is doing a "hard fork" or "effectively a software upgrade," Kelly said on "Fast Money." "When you do a software upgrade, everybody usually agrees. But in this particular case, everybody is not agreeing."

"So, we've got ourselves a 'crypto civil war,'" he said, adding that some traders are concerned the bitcoin and bitcoin cash markets would run into a slowdown or "chaos" after the software upgrade.

"People started selling. That triggered stops. Everybody got concerned," Kelly explained. "And that's what happened today — the entire market sell-down."

Kelly expects it to be a "very short-term" event. "I think it's probably an opportunity," he added. "In fact, we did some buying at my fund today [Wednesday]."

However, Kelly also had a warning for interested buyers: "If you don't understand what a 'hard fork' is, do not jump into that pool right now. It is the deep end."

A number of events "piled up" and led to some funds "taking some money off the table," said Meltem Demirors, chief strategy officer at CoinShares, which provides cryptocurrency investment products and research.

A great majority of assets are "very thinly traded" with monthly volumes, she explained, appearing Wednesday alongside Kelly on "Fast Money."

"I think all other assets that are not bitcoin are in the midst of a liquidity crisis," she said. "What we're seeing across the board is asset prices are down 75 percent or more, in some cases 95 percent."

"We're now at a point where projects are running out of money," Demirors warned.

"They're going to need to start firing employees. They're going to need to cut costs," she predicted. "You're going to see consolidation, and some of these assets, inevitably, will get marked to zero."

Bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency, saw a meteoric rise last year to over $19,000 per coin in December 2017. But since then, prices have tanked, and it was trading under $6,000 per coin Wednesday.