Coinbase, With Bitcoin Soaring, Files in Preparation for a Landmark Public Offer

Coinbase is preparing to go public. On Thursday, the major cryptocurrency exchange filed preliminary documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Coinbase has been the subject of IPO speculation for months. But the timing, which comes just a day after bitcoin broke $ 20,000 for the first time, can’t be ignored. The big exchange is positioning itself as Wall Street’s most accessible bet yet on cryptocurrency. In October 2018, Coinbase was worth $ 8 billion. Given the stratospheric rise in the price of bitcoin since then and the recent demand for initial public offerings, Coinbase’s current valuation is expected to be significantly higher.

“Form S-1 is expected to become effective once the SEC has completed its review process, subject to market and other conditions,” the company wrote in a thin blog post.

Coinbase said it filed confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That is the first formal step on the long road to public offering. The document, which is likely to include raising targets, was not available at press time.

A Coinbase spokeswoman declined to comment further.

The company’s influence touches every corner of the cryptocurrency industry. It is a major hub for retail bitcoin trading and a gateway for alternative cryptocurrencies. Its founding business is growing faster than MicroStrategy’s stack of sats. It has an analytics, stablecoin team in partnership with Circle, an enterprise wing and a trade division.

All of that might appeal to a Wall Street class eager to get exposure to the cryptocurrency markets.

It is unclear whether Coinbase wants to go public through an IPO or direct listing. It was first reported that Coinbase was auditing a stock market listing in July 2020, when Reuters reported that it had begun the process of taking its shares public. Anonymous sources told the wire service at the time that Coinbase was looking at a direct listing, rather than an initial public offering.

IPOs and direct listings require form S-1s, according to a blog post by Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase’s key investor.

The Coinbase form filed is confidential, meaning its content will not be published until three weeks before the exchange’s roadshow, when the company will try to woo potential investors.

This story will be updated.

Zack Seward and Nikhilesh De contributing reports.