BlackRock Causes Flood Of Spot Bitcoin ETF Filings

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WisdomTree, Invesco Follow BlackRock With Spot Bitcoin ETF Applications

According to recent filings made to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, ETF providers WisdomTree and Invesco have both re-submitted applications requesting regulatory approval for the launch of their respectives spot Bitcoin ETF products. 

While the SEC has yet to approve a single spot Bitcoin ETF product, the surge in new applications for spot Bitcoin ETFs seems to be due to asset manager BlackRock making a similar filing last week. 

Bitcoin ETFs are investment vehicles that track the price of the leading cryptocurrency, aiming to provide investors with exposure to the price movements of Bitcoin without requiring them to directly own and store the underlying asset. 

Instead of purchasing and holding Bitcoin themselves, investors can buy shares of the ETF, which represents ownership of a pool of Bitcoin held by the fund. 

ETF provider WisdomTree re-submitted an application requesting regulatory approval for the launch of the WisdomTree Bitcoin Trust on Tuesday, June 20. 

The trust is intended to be listed on the Cboe BZX Exchange under the ticker symbol “BTCW.” 

The trust plans to determine the daily value of the shares based on the CF Bitcoin US Settlement Price, which consolidated trading data from major Bitcoin spot exchanges. 

New York-based WisdomTree, which currently holds around $93 billion in assets under management, has made two previous attempts to secure approval for a spot Bitcoin ETF. Both applications were rejected by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December 2021 and October 2022. 

Invesco, another major investment company with as much as $1.49 trillion under its management as of May 2023, followed with its own application for a spot Bitcoin ETF later on Tuesday. 

Invesco initially teamed up with Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital to file for the Invesco Galaxy Bitcoin ETF in September 2021, and now seeks to reintroduce the instrument. 

In its filing, the Atlanta-based firm argues that the lack of a spot Bitcoin ETF “exposes U.S. investor assets to significant risk” as they “are forced to find alternative exposure through generally riskier means.” 

“For instance, many U.S. investors that held their digital assets in accounts at FTX, Celsius Network LLC, BlockFi Inc., and Voyager Digital Holdings, Inc. have become unsecured creditors in the insolvencies of those entities,” reads the filing. 

To that end, approval of a spot Bitcoin ETF, according to Invesco, “would represent a major win for the protection of U.S. investors” seeking exposure to crypto assets. 

In the past, the company also filed for a Bitcoin futures ETF, but pulled the plug on the effort in October 2021 after a futures ETF by ProShares was approved and began trading first. 

The SEC has repeatedly denied or postponed decisions on a physical Bitcoin ETF, raising concerns over the crypto’s volatility and “risk of market manipulation.”

The new wave of applications, which came after BlackRock’s filing last week, can be seen as a sign of asset management giants acknowledging the growing demand for regulated investment vehicles in the crypto space. 

Whether this changes the regulator’s stance on the matter remains to be seen. 

The price of BTC continued its upward trajectory following the news earlier this week, approaching $29,000 for the first time since May 8.

Ripple Obtains In-Principle Approval For Major Payments Institution License In Singapore

Blockchain-based payments firm Ripple has reportedly secured an in-principle approval for a Major Payments Institution License from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). 

This will allow Ripple’s local subsidiary to offer regulated digital payment token products and services in the city-state. 

Stu Alderoty, the Chief Legal Officer of Ripple, stated, 

“We’re pleased that Singapore has taken a forward-looking approach to how to regulate digital assets. With their licensing framework, they have figured out how to create a clear taxonomy for digital assets, balancing the need to protect consumers’ interests and the need to protect the integrity of the markets, while doing so in a way that promotes innovation and investment.” 

Ripple said that its Singapore office saw a 50% year-on-year increase in headcount, amounting to 50 full-time staff, hiring across key functions such as business development, compliance, finance, legal, and sales as it ramps up its presence in the country. 

A big part of the ramp-up, Alderoty explained, is because Ripple can access the growing licensed digital assets market that’s blooming in the country. 

“I think they’re attracting responsible actors,” he said. “With this license, we are in company with the likes of Coinbase, Circle, and others that have real businesses, real products, and have the wherewithal to play by the rules once the rules are set forth clearly.” 

So far, MAS has approved 190 Major Payment Institution licenses and 11 Digital Payment Token Service licenses. 

Local media report that MAS has received more than 680 applications for payment servies licenses since January 2020, with 17 being rejected and 214 applications withdrawn. Binance withdrew from Singapore and canceled its application for a Digital Payments Token license in December 2021.

Zora Launches Layer-2 NFT Network To Battle Ethereum Gas Fees

NFT minting platform Zora has reportedly launched its own Ethereum layer-2 scaling network called the “Zora Network.” 

According to documents published online, the new network will make minting on the Zora platform “faster, cheaper, and more enjoyable” with gas fees costing “less than 50 cents.” 

The platform will be integrated into all of Zora’s existing tools and experiences and is already supported by over 35 groups and platforms, including sound.xyz, and PleasrDAO. 

Zora Network is secured by the Ethereum blockchain, built on the tech stack of layer-2 scaling network Optimism, and already supported by more than 35 platforms – including on-chain music platform Sound, wallet provider Rainbow, and Web3 app toolkit Thirdweb. 

“Over the past six months, we’ve been reaching the upper limit of Ethereum mainnet,” Jacob Horne, CEO and co-founder of Zora said. “We’ve had 880,000 collectors and millions of NFTs minted, and have found that gas price is a systemic inhibitor to adoption.” 

Horne added that this is a pain point for both collectors and creators alike. 

In fact, many of the NFTs featured on Zora’s scrolling homepage sell for under $10, and may even be free to mint. 

An Ethereum network gas fee of a few bucks, or potentially much more during peak moments – could significantly raise the overall transaction cost. 

Zora’s layer-2 network was created with the idea of subsidizing and abstracting away these costs. Horne said that the network makes minting 25 times cheaper compared to Ethereum. 

“L2s have been around for a year now – mainnet Optimism has existed, Arbitrum has existed – but have skewed towards DeFi and a financial use case,” he said. “I think the ecosystem and the market is ready for a network that’s purpose-built for art and media, and really leaning into all the interesting experimental things you can do when you have a network like that.” 

Zora is one of several NFT platforms that have set out to challenge industry incumbents with new features and products. 

Founded by three Coinbase alumni in 2020, Zora started out as a service that offered musicians and other artists the means to sell digital tokens tied to physical artifacts such as cassettes. 

Since then, the startup pivoted to focus on building an open-source protocol that allows anyone to open up an NFT marketplace. 

To date, Zora has been the base for a number of high-profile NFT drops, including a $4 million sale of the Doge meme NFT, as well as one for the Warhol Foundation. 

In April, the company put out a print magazine – a publication with a 2,500 item print run–which was redeemable via NFT. 

At the time, each NFT cost around $150. 

Zora still has the long-term ambition to create a DOW that could one day raise money through the sale of governance tokens.

Luke Baldwin

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