Since 2013 the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust Fund (GBTC) has offered its investors exposure to Bitcoin (BTC) through a publicly quoted private instrument. However, the trust’s convertibility and liquidity vastly differ from an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).
Trusts are structured as companies, at least in regulatory form, and are ‘closed-end funds’ which can initially only be sold to accredited investors. This means the number of available shares is limited, and retail traders can only access them via secondary markets. Furthermore, a GBTC share cannot be redeemed for the underlying BTC position.
Historically, GBTC used to trade above the equivalent BTC held by the fund, which was caused by the retail crowd’s excess demand. The common practice for institutional clients was to buy shares directly from Grayscale at par and sell at a profit after the six-month lock-up period.
During most of 2020, GBTC shares traded at a premium to its Net Asset Value (NAV), which varied from 5% to 40%. However, this situation drastically changed in March 2021. The approval of two Bitcoin ETFs in Canada heavily contributed to extinguishing the GBTC premium.
ETF funds are less risky and cheaper compared to trusts. Moreover, there is no lock-up period, and retail investors can attain direct access to buy shares at par. Therefore, the emergence of a better Bitcoin investment vehicle seized much of allure that GBTC once possessed.
Can DCG save GBTC?
In late February, the GBTC premium entered adverse terrain, and holders began desperately flipping their positions to avoid getting stuck in an expensive and non-redeemable instrument. The situation deteriorated up to an 18% discount despite BTC price reaching an all-time high in mid-March.
On March 10, Digital Currency Group (DCG), Grayscale Investments’ parent company, announced a plan to purchase up to $250 million of the outstanding GBTC shares. Although the conglomerate did not specify the…