Tesla has invested $1.5bn in bitcoin and plans to begin accepting it for payment in one of the highest-profile endorsements of the cryptocurrency sector by a major US company. The disclosure from the electric carmaker sent bitcoin rallying to a record high of $44,100, extending its 50 per cent surge so far this year.
Analysts have put the meteoric rally down to growing enthusiasm from institutional investors seeking returns in the era of low interest rates. In a regulatory filing on Monday, Tesla said it purchased the bitcoins after changing its investment policy last month to “diversify and maximise” returns on its cash. Line chart of $ per coin showing Bitcoin soars after Tesla reveals $1.5bn investment For years Tesla was short of cash as it invested heavily in developing its electric vehicles.
Although its finances have improved, the bitcoin investment still represents about 8 per cent of the $19.4bn it held in cash and liquid assets at the end of December, according to the filing. The group said it expected to accept bitcoin as a form of payment for its products, although initially on a “limited basis”, adding that it might sell the digital assets for hard currency once payments are processed.
Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, has been a vocal supporter of digital assets on social media, particularly about dogecoin, which he said was the “people’s crypto”. In December he wrote on Twitter that bitcoin was his “safeword” in an apparent joke. Robyn Denholm, an Australian telecoms executive who took over from Musk as chair of Tesla’s board in 2018, is head of the audit committee that signed off on the change to the company’s investment policy.
The change allows Tesla to invest “a portion” of its cash in “alternative reserve assets including digital assets [and] gold bullion”. Recommended John Gapper Electric vehicles need to arrive as fast as vaccines The carmaker is the latest consumer-facing company to venture into cryptocurrency markets, following PayPal. However, cryptocurrencies remain highly volatile and are risky to hold due to frequent hacking and fraud, as well as difficulties in transferring them to cash.
“We believe our bitcoin holdings are highly liquid. However, digital assets may be subject to volatile market prices, which may be unfavourable at the time when we want or need to liquidate them,” Tesla said on Monday. “[This] is a potential game-changing move for the use of bitcoin from a transactional perspective,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Ives said the announcement from Tesla could prompt other companies to make similar decisions given the growing interest in digital currencies. “Investors and other industry watchers will be watching this closely to see if other corporations follow the lead of Tesla on this crypto path or on the other hand does it remain a contained few names that make this strategic jump around bitcoin.”
By: Eva Szalay
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