Chinese crypto mining giant Ebang International Holdings Inc. is planning to launch an offshore exchange for digital assets this year, hoping to expand beyond a sector that tends to boom and bust with Bitcoin prices.
The Hangzhou-based maker of Bitcoin mining rigs could see total revenue grow about 40% in 2020 after expanding into the newer business of helping clients manage datacenters, Chief Financial Officer Chen Lei said in an interview. Revenue could almost double to $200 million this year with the launch of the crypto-exchange, he said. Otherwise, Ebang should hit that mark in 2022, he added.
Ebang slid more than 4% on its Friday U.S. debut after raising $100 million in an IPO. It plans to use the proceeds to develop new models of machines and expand overseas. Part of the plan is to set up a regulatory-compliant crypto exchange outside China, which Chen expects to initially attract 10% of the total transaction fees of crypto trading.
Ebang’s new exchange will help it counter the wild volatility of the world’s largest cryptocurrency, which so far this year has traded in a wide range between about $5,000 and $10,000. While crypto trading thrives in both bull and bear markets, a significant drop in Bitcoin prices will pretty much mean bad business for mining-equipment makers like Ebang. Last year the firm had $109 million in revenue — roughly a third of 2018’s sales — according to its prospectus, and reported net losses in both 2018 and 2019.
Larger rivals like Bitmain Technologies Ltd. and Canaan Inc. are betting on making chips in the adjacent field of artificial intelligence to reduce their reliance on Bitcoin prices, with mixed success. Ebang — founded in 2010 by telecom expert Hu Dong — has opted to delve deeper into cryptocurrency, with services that help customers host and maintain their equipment at data centers. Ebang’s considering applying for licenses in places like the U.S. or Singapore for its planned crypto exchange, or acquiring an existing exchange operator, Chen said.
Ebang listed at a time of escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing, which threaten to disrupt Chinese companies’ access to U.S. capital markets after the accounting scandal surrounding Luckin Coffee Inc. — one of the country’s brightest startups.
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Chen argued the listing was a win for Ebang’s brand as it seeks to draw more customers from overseas markets including the U.S. Currently, almost 90% of the firm’s sales come from China, and much of the remainder from the rest of Asia.