After Ripple Ruling, Grayscale Ethereum Trust Becomes More … – Seeking Alpha

Ethereum coin and stock chart at background

Andres Victorero

Andres Victorero
Grayscale Ethereum Trust (OTCQX:ETHE) is a fund that holds Ethereum (ETH-USD) on behalf of investors. That’s not terribly exciting, it carries a 2.5% annual fee, and there are other ways to access the cryptocurrency at lower cost if you
There’s an active court case against the SEC with a decision expected in the next few weeks or months that could enable the larger Grayscale Bitcoin
For the Grayscale Ethereum Fund, that’s now very interesting, because both these Grayscale funds look very similar at a high level, holding billions of assets as the category leader, trading at a material discount to NAV and if they convert into ETF structures then the NAV discount drops to effectively zero. Equally, if they don’t convert to ETFs and others do, they could lose market leadership to the likes of BlackRock and Fidelity over time, who have signaled based on preliminary ETF filings they could introduce ETFs if the SEC allows it, though those filings have not currently proceeded to ETFs yet based apparently on non-public SEC feedback that they are “inadequate”.
As an aside market leadership within an ETF category generally goes to the ETF that acquires the most assets out of the gate, and such funds generally then persist in the number one position. If Grayscale moves quickly on an ETF and brings over billions in assets, it may be able to transfer a leadership position in a fund to a similar leading ETF position. The reasons for this are a broader liquidity and narrower spreads that come from being the largest fund. That move may be strategically attractive to Grayscale for the long term, assuming crypto grows in relevance over time, even if fees have to come down a bit from the current 2.5% to achieve that outcome.
It’s worth being aware that ETFs generally trade to NAV, unlike some other fund structures, since financial intermediaries create/redeem assets of the ETF by buying/selling the underlying assets to smooth out NAV premiums and discounts for ETFs. The current Grayscale funds for Bitcoin (BTC-USD) and Ethereum don’t do that, hence the wide discount to NAV. That would likely change with an ETF structure, potentially collapsing today’s rather large NAV discounts.
Importantly on July 13, the courts ruled that Ripple (another cryptocurrency) was, broadly speaking, not a security, “because purchasers did not have a reasonable expectation of profit tied to Ripple’s efforts”. That’s important, the SEC has been guarded on defining whether Ethereum is a security or not, though they have generally referred to Bitcoin as a commodity, not a security. Of course, being a security shouldn’t be a bad thing, but in this case, the SEC might go on to argue that it’s an unregistered security and that then brings a host of legal problems given the current posture of the SEC toward crypto. It’s possible the SEC appeals the ruling.
Now with the Ripple ruling, it is more likely that Ethereum is not considered a security given its similarities with Ripple. Hence, if Bitcoin has success with its court case for a Bitcoin ETF, after today’s legal decision, it may be easier for Grayscale to convert its Ethereum fund into an ETF if it chooses to, and there have been some Ethereum ETFs filings recently showing interest in this area, although the SEC has not approved them.
Previously, even if Grayscale won its case against the SEC for a Bitcoin ETF, there was considerable risk that Ethereum would not be able to follow suit because the SEC would use arguments concerning how Ethereum was potentially a security to block any sort of ETF filing for Ethereum. Now that seems like a harder path for the SEC to pursue, though of course, they may find other angles.
Still, there are likely two good reasons for the Grayscale Ethereum Trust to trade at a wider discount to NAV than the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.
If you’re a regulator, it’s not a good look for the courts to reverse your decisions. It ultimately diminishes the effectiveness and predictability of the regulator.
The SEC may be facing this issue with crypto. Yes, it wants to protect investors from fraud. However, it must do so in a coherent and consistent way. It may have to give up the battle on blocking ETFs associated with well-established cryptocurrencies. That may enable it to go after smaller and riskier schemes with more force, or to focus on other players such as Coinbase where legal action is pending.
Currently, the discount on the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust has narrowed to around 30% at the time of writing. Whereas the discount on the Grayscale Ethereum Trust is currently around 37% (note prices are volatile). The ruling on Ripple suggests that the chances of an Ethereum ETF are more correlated to a Bitcoin ETF than we previously thought.
Therefore, if you’re interested in investing in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust based on the chances of a favorable ruling from the courts on ETF conversion, after today’s ruling, the Grayscale Ethereum ETF may be worth a look too. That may also diversify your underlying crypto exposure if you aren’t committed to Bitcoin.
Then, if converted to an ETF and trading at NAV, this is what your returns would look like.
Of course, the NAV discount could well widen if Grayscale loses their SEC case, and the swings in value of crypto assets will significantly impact valuations too.
Editor’s Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.
This article was written by
Analyst’s Disclosure: I/we have a beneficial long position in the shares of ETHE either through stock ownership, options, or other derivatives. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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