Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency by market capitalisation, has been on a rally in the past few days. The price was US$32,773.91 (AU$51,742.84) at the time of writing, up from around US$26,200 (AU$41,338) in the last week of September. As the Bitcoin price rises, we can take a look at those who stood their ground during the long, deep dark crypto winter.
While crypto winter is not yet officially over, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Many pundits are waiting to see if this is the start of the next bull run. The great hope is that Bitcoin will surpass its previous all-time high from November 2021, when it hit $69,044.77 (AU$109,090.74).
What is driving this latest price rise?
There are several factors that could be contributing to the bullish sentiment in the market.
First of all, Bitcoin is becoming more legit. More businesses, institutions and individuals are accepting and using Bitcoin.
For example, in September 2023, Twitter announced it would allow users to tip each other with Bitcoin through its platform.
This month, PayPal expanded its cryptocurrency services to Australia, allowing users to buy, sell and hold Bitcoin, and other digital assets, through its app.
Bitcoin has also benefited from a more favourable and supportive regulatory environment in some jurisdictions, including Australia. While Bitcoin in Australia is not legal tender, it is still legal to buy, sell and use it as a form of payment or investment, as long as users comply with tax and consumer protection laws.
In the U.S. there’s pressure from giant investment houses for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to approve the first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the country.
If this does happen (and it is definitely not a sure thing) this will give investors a new and convenient way to access the cryptocurrency market, without having to hold the actual crypto.
Also, supply and demand dynamics may be in play. Bitcoin has a limited supply of 21 million coins. As more people demand and acquire Bitcoin, there is upward pressure on the price.
Hodlers may not sell
Also, some long-term Bitcoin holders (called hodlers) are reluctant to sell their coins, preferring to hold them until the price goes up. According to data from Glassnode, a blockchain analytics firm, the amount of Bitcoin that has not moved in at least a year reached a record high of 12.7 million coins in October 2023, indicating strong hodling behaviour among investors.
The future of bitcoin is uncertain and unpredictable, and of course, the cryptocurrency market is still comparatively young compared to other markets such as the stock market. However there are some winners, even at this early stage of a potential bull run.
Michael Saylor: Bold Move or a Foolish Gamble?
Michael Saylor, the co-founder and CEO of MicroStrategy, a software company that provides business intelligence and analytics solutions, has been one of the most vocal and influential advocates of Bitcoin in the corporate world.
Since August 2020, he has invested more than $2.2 billion of his company’s cash reserves in Bitcoin, acquiring a total of 114,042 bitcoins at an average price of $19,427 per coin. He has also personally invested over $175 million in Bitcoin.
Saylor has been banging on about Bitcoin for a while, and his obsession with it intensified as the crypto winter set in. MicroStrategy’s stock price (NASDAQ: MSTR) soared nearly 15% on August 3 this year, after Saylor announced that he would step down as CEO and become executive chairman. Some critics questioned his motives in betting so heavily on a volatile and risky asset that has no regulatory clarity in the US. While it is unknown if he plans to sell his Bitcoin stash, it would be a sound conclusion to assume that he will eventually cash out.
Yet every day he kept rabbiting on about Bitcoin.
Saylor’s gamble seems to have paid off, as Bitcoin prices have surged in the past few days. As of October 23, 2023, MicroStrategy’s Bitcoin holdings are worth about $3.76 billion (AU$5.94 billion), giving the company a profit of over $1.5 billion (AU$2.37 billion) on its investment (assuming they will sell). That is, while the price holds. If the price crashes, he will be back in the red. All this, however, is dependent on whether he actually sells his Bitcoin. He may just continue to sit on it until the end of time.
The cryptocurrency market is notoriously volatile and prone to extreme swings, as seen in the most recent crash in 2021, when Bitcoin lost more than 50% of its value in a matter of weeks. Therefore, Saylor’s Bitcoin investment could be seen as either a bold move or a foolish gamble. While some may admire his vision and conviction, others may question his judgement and responsibility.
Nayib Bukele’s Bitcoin Investment: Still Down
Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, made history by becoming the first world leader to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender in his country.
While Bukele bought Bitcoin as a long-term investment, and as a workaround to help Salvador’s economy, his investment doesn’t seem to yet be in profit.
Since September 2021, he has invested more than $150 million (AU$237 million) of his government’s funds in Bitcoin. He has also distributed US$30 (AU$47.4) worth of Bitcoin to every Salvadoran citizen through digital wallet app Chivo.
Bukele’s main argument for embracing Bitcoin is that it will make it easier and cheaper for Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances – which account for 22% of the country’s GDP – back home. He also believes Bitcoin will attract foreign investment, create jobs and provide financial inclusion to the 70% of Salvadorans who are unbanked.
Bitcoin price rises and volatility
Experts have warned that Bitcoin is a volatile and risky asset, and that Bukele’s gamble could expose El Salvador to significant financial losses. The Bitcoin price rises we are seeing might not be the signal flare of a new bull market.
As of the time of writing, El Salvador’s Bitcoin holdings are thought to have lost the government around US$74.2 million (AU$117.24 million) on its investment. Bukele has made it clear, however, that he’s in it for the long haul.
If the bull market returns, and prices go up to where they were at the all-time-high, Bukele will be a hero. If the price drops from here, and the bull market fails to return, Bukele will be remembered as someone who made a terrible mistake with his people’s money.
Ultimately, only time will tell whether Bukele is a trailblazer or a gambler.