One of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges could soon be the first big one to be publicly traded.
Singapore-based holding company BTHMB is looking to list in the U.S. by acquiring a publicly traded company here. On Tuesday, a holding company called Blockchain Industries, which trades publicly on U.S. over-the-counter markets under the ticker BCII, announced it had signed a binding letter of intent with BTHMB, which is being renamed Blockchain Exchange Alliance.
This so-called reverse merger is a nonconventional way of getting into the public markets and could be much faster than an initial public offering, or IPO. A source told CNBC that Blockchain Exchange Alliance had contemplated listing in Singapore but did not want to wait the year or two it might take to complete an IPO.
The combined company plans to eventually "up-list," meaning it would move from over-the-counter markets, which are known for trading penny stocks, to the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, sources told CNBC. That would also require the company to meet stiffer listing requirements.
Blockchain Exchange Alliance would wind up being the majority of the combined company.
This would mark the first major cryptocurrency company exchange to be publicly listed. While none have taken this IPO route, this reverse-merger move has already been tested.
Former hedge-fund manager Mike Novogratz used the tactic to list his crypto merchant bank on a Canadian stock market. He first bought Canadian crypto start-up Coin Capital, then merged through a reverse takeover with Canadian shell company Bradmer Pharmaceuticals. The renamed company trades as Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd on Canada's TSX Venture Exchange.
But Novogratz's company has struggled along with bitcoin. In the first quarter of 2018, it lost $134 million as cryptocurrencies lost half their value. Since its trading debut on Aug. 1, shares of GLXY have dropped roughly 36 percent.
According to an investor deck seen by CNBC, Blockchain Exchange Alliance says it has broader plans in crypto beyond bitcoin. It's planning to buy up and consolidate exchanges across the world. It plans on creating a global crypto exchange alliance, which is already underway. The group intends to have nine exchanges by the end of this year, and as many as 40 by the end of 2020, according to the investor deck.