Bitcoin IPO on the cards? Competition between the Winkelvoss twins and Barry Silbert hots up

Bitcoin Investment Trust (BIT), a Bitcoin fund founded last year by Barry Silbert, is aiming toward becoming the first publicly traded Bitcoin fund in the world, having gained approval from regulators in order to establish an electronic platform operated by OTC Markets Group Inc (OTCMKTS:OTCM).

According to the Wall Street Journal, The BIT, which was first launched in 2013 as a private fund for accredited investors with annual incomes greater than $200,000 or assets of more than $1 million, has been racing against a rival offering by twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, best known for their lawsuit against Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Barry Silbert is very much accustomed to taking alternative asset classes and investment opportunities into the mainstream, having founded SecondMarket in 2004, which provides liquidity for restricted securities in public companies.

Beginning in early 2008, SecondMarket expanded into other asset classes which included first auction‐rate securities, then bankruptcy claims, limited partnership interests, whole loans, private company stock, government IOUs and eventually Bitcoins.

In direct competition with Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, BIT has undergone a long, drawn out regulatory procedure conducted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in order to register a formal Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).

This led to BIT having become a possible subject for public listing, due to a rule that allows holders of a private fund to sell shares on the public market after a 12 month lockup period and subject to the completion of an approval process with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

On this basis, a proportion of the long-held shares in BIT may be available to investors.

Although the anticipated trading value is unknown at this point, BIT shares were being cited as of Sunday, March 1 under the temporary ticker symbol BTCV on OTC Markets’ pink sheets site, which includes over-the-counter offerings from companies with limited information disclosure. Price quotes are being supplied by Merriman Capital, which has been given a 30-day exclusive status to function as the fund’s initial market maker.

Mr. Silbert said FINRA granted its request for a permanent ticker symbol, GBTC, and that “is expected to be effective shortly.”

He said Grayscale Investments, the venture capital firm that sponsored BIT, is also separately “working through the approval process to enable the BIT’s shares to be quoted under the Alternative Reporting Standards on OTCQX, the top marketplace operated by OTC Markets Group.” That top-tier marketplace holds issuers to significantly higher standards of disclosure than is required for its pink sheet listings.

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