Past and present owners of Bitcoin Investment Trust (NASDAQOTH: GBTC) may want to pay close attention to their brokerage accounts over the new year. That's because Bitcoin Investment Trust has decided to sell some of its holdings and distribute the cash to its shareholders.
As it stands right now, Bitcoin Investment Trust holds bitcoin and two other bitcoin-related currencies, bitcoin cash and bitcoin gold. It will sell the bitcoin cash and bitcoin gold, and ultimately distribute the proceeds to its shareholders in the form of U.S. currency, according to press releases from its sponsor, Grayscale Investments.
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Bitcoin cash and bitcoin gold are two derivative currencies the trust owns as a direct result of a fork, or split, in the network, thus creating the new "cash" and "gold" currencies. Once it parts with its bitcoin cash and bitcoin gold, Bitcoin Investment Trust will become a pure-play for speculating on the price of bitcoin.
This process means that Bitcoin Investment Trust shareholders need to pay particular attention to the calendar. When you own shares is important to whether or not you'll receive the distribution. If you own the shares at the time of the record date, you'll get the distribution, even if the payment isn't made until weeks or months later.
Bitcoin Investment Trust hasn't announced when, exactly, these cash payments will be made. It has disclosed the record dates for each distribution, however. A record date is the date on which you need to be a shareholder of record in order to receive a distribution.
If you were to purchase shares of Bitcoin Investment Trust now and hold them through Dec. 4, you would be entitled to receive the distribution related to the sale of its bitcoin gold holdings. At current market prices for bitcoin gold, shareholders can expect to receive about $30.72 per Bitcoin Investment Trust share, less any costs of selling the digital currency. (Notably, Grayscale said it intends to sell its bitcoin gold over a period of less than 90 days, so the average price will likely differ from current market prices.)
This distribution and its record date somewhat changes the math for determining what the trust is worth at any given time.
If you own shares you bought after Nov. 6, you wouldn't be eligible for the biggest distribution (the bitcoin cash distribution), because the record date for the distribution was Nov. 6, 2017. Shareholders who owned shares of Bitcoin Investment Trust on that date -- even if they sold them afterward -- would stand to receive the distribution related to bitcoin cash.
Thus, the right way to think about Bitcoin Investment Trust right now is that its share price should approximate the sum of 0.09211978 bitcoin plus 0.09221573 bitcoin gold in U.S. dollar terms. I worked out that math below, based on the current market value of each digital currency as of 12:30 p.m. EST.
At current market prices, I calculate a net asset value of approximately $943.38 for each share of Bitcoin Investment Trust, or about 40% less than the $1,565 price at which shares of Bitcoin Investment Trust most recently changed hands.
The Bitcoin Investment Trust is an anomaly in the investment world. Trading at a 66% premium to the underlying value of its digital currency, it's an outlier among closed-end funds, given the median fund trades at a 5% discount to net asset value.
In a normal market, one would expect Bitcoin Investment Trust to lose value when the record date for the bitcoin gold distribution passes in December, but Bitcoin Investment Trust's persistent premium has been anything but normal.
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