This July promises to bring an exciting and potentially volatile period for Bitcoin. Late this month, over 140,000 BTC worth of Grayscale GBTC shares will be unlocked and available to the open market. Grayscale is a Bitcoin Trust and has been the largest buyer of Bitcoin in the world over the past two years.
Grayscale is like a black hole for Bitcoin. Once Bitcoin enters the Trust, it does not leave the Trust (aside from the 2% management fee taken by the management company). Here&39s how it works: Accredited investors deposit BTC or USD into the fund in exchange for GBTC shares in proportion to the fund&39s net asset value (NAV). GBTC shares usually trade at a premium to NAV (sometimes as high as 100% higher than NAV. For a long time, GBTC shares traded at a premium of 40% or more to the spot bitcoin price.
When GBTC shares are minted, they have a 6-month lock-up period before they can be sold to retail investors on the open market. This seemed like a sure-fire way for institutions to turn a quick profit. This in turn incentivized institutions to borrowed Bitcoin to lock in the fund in return for GBTC shares which traded at a premium. However, as the Bitcoin price tanked in April, the GBTC price fell to a discount of NAV and the trade fell apart for those institutions who borrowed BTC and received GBTC in return.
It is important to realize that when GBTC shares are traded, no "physical" bitcoin is actually trading hands, only shares of the Trust. There has been much speculation that this GBTC unlock could be a major bearish catalyst for Bitcoin as the GBTC discount will entice buyers to buy GBTC as opposed to BTC on the spot market. However, the actual underlying market dynamics may paint a very different picture.
Investors who entered the trade by locking in borrowed coins might now need to repurchase those to repay the loan. Similarly, those who deposit their bitcoin holdings need to buy back coins to return to their base portfolio. So assuming supply-side factors remain constant, the repurchases associated with Grayscale unlockings could end up putting upward pressure on bitcoin prices.
The debate is far from over and only time will tell what type of influence this unlocking of shares will actually have on the market. But if there is one thing we can count on in late July and August, it&39s volatility!