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Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase makes dramatic debut

written by Bella Palmer

On the Nasdaq, Coinbase opened at $381 per share, 52 percent above its reference price

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has made a dramatic stock market debut amid frenzied interest in bitcoin and other virtual currencies despite concerns about a bubble.

The first platform devoted entirely to cryptocurrency to enter the US stock exchange, Coinbase debuted on the market well above its reference price and quickly soared before pulling back somewhat.

The premier "went successfully," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities. We'll have to see how this plays out and then see if this particular publicly traded stock is as volatile as the cryptocurrencies that it transactions.

Coinbase opened on the Nasdaq at $381 per share, 52 percent above its reference price and rising as high as $429.54 before closing the day at $328.28.

The company ended the day with a market value around $86 billion after topping $100 billion earlier in the session.

Coinbase chose a direct listing, which does not allow it to raise new funds but does offer current shareholders -- founders, employees and historical investors -- the opportunity to sell their shares on the market.

The crypto exchange has benefited from bitcoin's meteoric rise over the past year, with the crypto asset's price increasing from $6,500 last April to new records of as high as $64,000 Wednesday before retreating somewhat.

The Coinbase entry "is potentially a watershed event for the crypto industry," said Daniel Ives at Wedbush Securities. Coinbase is a foundational piece of the crypto ecosystem and is a barometer for the growing mainstream adoption of bitcoin and crypto for the coming years, in our opinion.

Founded in 2012 in San Francisco by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam, the platform allows users to buy and sell nearly 50 cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin and ether.

Coinbase claims 56 million total users and over six million people making transactions each month, according to estimates from its first-quarter results, released in early April.

With bitcoin already having more than doubled in the last six months and cryptocurrencies becoming more popular with more mainstream investors, it can certainly be argued that crypto has become more mainstream in the last 12 months, said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

As a result of this craze, Coinbase's revenue has grown nearly tenfold in the course of a year to $1.8 billion in the first quarter, according to company estimates.

Its profit increased 25-fold, in the range of $730 million to $800 million.

The success of Coinbase and cryptocurrencies in general has given some rivals ideas: the head of the California-based cryptocurrency exchange platform Kraken told CNBC last week he hopes to take his company public next year, also via a direct listing.


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