Microsoft Buying GitHub?

Microsoft may announce this week they are purchasing GitHub for $2 billion. This seems like a good deal for Microsoft. The financial problems for GitHub are related to expense control, but their service is becoming increasingly indispensable for developers. I think Microsoft could also find revenue synergies as well.

Toronto Rent Control Restricting Supply

As a Toronto property owner, I guess its good for me when my competitors won’t add to the supply of residential rental apartments (“smart”/current landlords are getting rich(er)), but as a Torontonian, I think rent control is hurting our city (and extending our commute times) since limiting the rent residential landlords can charge decreases the incentives for developers to add supply, thereby just making it more expensive for tenants in the long run. But if few Torontonians understand the dynamics of supply and demand, will rent control still sound appealing to voters? Probably 🙁 Rent control is making it harder for young people to own property, so keep investing in Toronto based REITs.

Allied Eyes 10-Year Bond to Fund Office Push for Toronto Tech

Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust is planning to spend about C$1 billion ($790 million) over the next five years to meet the frenzied demand for offices by tech workers in Canada’s biggest city.

How Does Bitfinex Funding Work?

If you have spare bitcoins kicking around, one way to use them is by lending them out to margin traders on an exchange such as Bitfinex. This post will explain how the Bitfinex funding market works, and how you can use it to earn more bitcoins (and even US dollar tether).

Bitfinex is a cryptocurrency exchange. Users can signup to Bitfinex to trade cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins, ethereum, bitcoin cash, and many others. One of the unique features of Bitfinex is their margin funding markets. For users who want to add leverage to their positions and users who want to earn interest on their bitcoins, Bitfinex offers a margin funding order book where those users can exchange margin funding with each other. So if you’re a trader with a bullish view on ETH over BTC, you can actually borrow BTC on Bitfinex and use those borrowed funds to jack up your ETHBTC position. This funding isn’t free, so users can also choose to lend those BTC and earn a daily interest rate.  The user funding market is an ingenious feature offered by Bitfinex which is one of the main reasons the exchange has attracted so much volume. Whereas a typical margin loan is made by a broker or dealer, as the exchange Bitfinex cuts out these middleman (as they remain as the middleman themselves).

What kinds of rates can lenders expect to receive? Since Bitfinex runs an open order book for funding, the rate you will receive is simply result of of supply and demand, and so the rate you will receive will fluctuate as the market dictates. Rates are quoted as percent per day. To find the simply daily annualized rate, multiply by 365 or use your own formula to find an APR. Follow this link to BFXdata where you can view historical Bitfinex funding rates. You will see that bitcoin funding mostly range from 0.01% per day and sometimes spike up to 0.60% per day.

What are the risks? Other than interest rate risk, and the risk that their bitcoins fall against your own unit of account (your home fiat currency?), the main risks that Bitfinex lenders face is the default risk of borrowers and the credit risk of Bitfinex itself. The risk that borrowers default is actually very low, in fact its so low that you will probably never have a borrow default on a loan. Why?  Because of the Bitfinex margin limits. Follow this link for a description of the margin rules. Bitfinex borrowers receive a margin call when the net value of their account equity reaches 22.5%. When the net value of their account falls below 15% of your borrowed funding value, the position will be force-liquidated.  Since Bitfinex is a very liquid exchange, and since there are so many ways to arbitrage the bitcoin price, the exchange can virtually always liquidate positions to make the lender whole.

The credit risk of Bitfinex is the main risk for lenders. Even though the risk of any individual defaulting is very low (virtually non-existent), the main risk is Bitfinex itself goes bust or gets hacked, and this is not pie in the sky, its happened before and it could happen again. I personally think the risk of Bitfinex being hacked again in a major way is low, the rate of return users can earn by funding margin loans reflects this risk.  Bitfinex funding does not earn you free money. I hope eventually clearing houses (maybe blockchain based clearinghouses?) will emerge to reduce the exchange default risk.

So, you want to earn some bitcoin interest by lending your funds out on Bitfinex? After you open an account, you deposit your bitcoins, and move them to your funding wallet. Now you can place an order to lend out your coins using similar mechanics to trading stocks and cryptos. There is an order book with bids and offers, choose your strategy and work your lending book. You can use the Bitfinex Flash Return Rate (FRR) which is kinda like the average daily rate on funding to automatically renew your loans, or you can auto renew at a fixed price, or you can manually update your loans using your fingers or the Bitfinex API.

Bitfinex also charges fees on margin funding. At the time of writing fees are 15% of the interest you earn.

If you have questions about Bitfinex lending, please post your comments below and I’ll do my best to answer specific questions.

Choice Properties offers to buy CREIT

This is a great move by Choice Properties as it provides diversification and more scale. It shows how Weston is moving towards greater diversification of their investment portfolio in general and making Choice Properties a key part of their strategy. As a holder of both Choice Properties and CREIT, I support this proposal and will choose the cash option.

Choice Properties REIT buying Canadian REIT for $3.9-billion

Choice Properties Real Estate Investment Trust has signed a deal to acquire Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust (CREIT) for $3.9-billion in cash and stock. The combination of Choice Properties, which counts Loblaw as its principal tenant and largest unitholder, and CREIT will create a company with a diversified portfolio of 752 properties.

Loblaw Companies Limited supports Choice Properties REIT’s acquisition of Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust

To facilitate Choice Properties’ financing for the transaction, Loblaw has agreed to convert all of its outstanding Class C LP units of Choice Properties Limited Partnership with a face value of $925 million (“Class C LP units”) into Class B LP units of Choice Properties Limited Partnership (“Class B LP units”) on closing.

Bank of Canada raises key rate to 1.25%

Bank of Canada raises key interest rate to 1.25% | CBC News

The Bank of Canada raised its key lending rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.25 per cent Wednesday, the third time it has moved its benchmark rate from once-record lows last summer. The bank’s rate has an impact on rates that Canadians get from retail banks for things like mortgages, savings accounts and GICs.

Bank of Canada raises interest rate to 1.25%, highest in almost a decade

The Bank of Canada had a window to raise interest rates and it opted to use it. Canada’s central bank raised its lending benchmark a quarter point to 1.25 per cent, an historically low setting that nonetheless will seem high to anyone who got used to post-crisis borrowing costs that were closer to zero.

Trading Bitcoin in Canada: how much does it cost?

Have you decided to trade bitcoins, or are you looking for the best venue to trade?  The post below will review some popular exchanges and describe some of the costs and benefits of each.

Before diving into the specifics, it’s important to recognize the difference between a primary exchange and a service provider. A primary exchange includes exchanges such as Bitfinex, Poloniex, and QuadrigaCX, which are the venues where traders interact. Other services such as QuickBT provide foreign exchange services but do not run exchanges per se. This distinction is important depending on the functionality you require to execute your trading strategy.

CoinSquare, trading fees range from 0.1% to 0.2%, no API access, no affiliate, could be a reason why liquidity is a bit lower on this exchange.

QuadrigaCX, trading fees range from 0.2% to 0.5%, decent API documentation, highest CAD to crypto liquidity.

Kraken, trading fees range from 0.16% to 0.26%, robust API, high liquidity, global exchange offering a few different fiat to crypto pairs.

Review of Hive Blockchain Technologies

A friend of mine who is an investor based in Ontario Canada asked me recently to provide him with my thoughts on Hive Blockchain Technologies, which is a TSX listed company based in Vancouver. Below are my thoughts.

My process to analyse a public company (in Canada and/or the US) is pretty straight forward. The first thing I do is a Google search for their name. This helps link me to their company website, but also helps me see the main pages that might be relevant. I arrive at Hive’s website and download their investor presentation which is a 38 page PDF.  According to their investor presentation, Hive owns 2 GPU based mining facilities and owns the option to buy 2 more facilities from Genesis Mining (which is a cloud mining company, that I’ve used and reviewed on this blog). Genesis in turn owns 30% of Hive.

The first thing that strikes me as I’m reading Hive’s investor presentation is they are rightly currently focused on GPU based mining, which includes such currencies as Monero, Dash, ZCash, Ethereum. Bitcoin mining is not profitable anywhere in the world unless the miner can secure a subsidized price for power, and this usually involves some shady deal with some government or utility. From what I can see, its profitable to mine bitcoins if your facility is in a cold climate, with no taxes, right next door to a hydro electric facility so that no transmission costs are involved. This should be a hint to Ontario based towns with old hydro facilities, and a missed opportunity for Ontario Power Generation.

The problem with focusing on GPU based mining is that in the long run, the profitability of this type of mining should erode. As the market for the most popular based GPU based mining becomes more liquid, it should drive down mining profitability (especially when any kid living in his parents basement running a GPU rig is getting free electricity because his parents pay the utility bill) to the point where profit focused miners will need search further afield to less popular coins to mine. Could this be one of the reasons why Genesis is selling to Hive?

At the time of writing, Hive has a market cap of 800 million Canadian dollars. I visit Sedar.com to find their financial statements. According to their September 30th, 2017 filing, Hive has 5.8 mil in cash and receivables, almost 9 mil worth of equipment, and accounts payable of 3.2 mil. Looks like they spent more than 500k on marketing expenses and 129K on professional fees. These expenses are likely related to their fundraising. They also recorded a 2.7 mil expenses related to share based compensation.

Starting in on the notes from the financial statements, looks like Hive will recognize revenue from mined coins as they are mined and apply an exchange rate at the time the coins are mined, they will also recognize the change in value of their coins on hand based on current rates and apply the difference to current year’s profit/loss. This accounting method could cause their income/loss to swing wildly as the value of the currencies they mine rise and fall. This accounting method could also cause Hive to pay a lot more tax than they otherwise would because they are realizing the tax liability on an ongoing basis, as compared to a passive investor in cryptocurrencies who would only recognize the capital gains and losses as they are realized.

Hive will also depreciate their computer equipment on a four year straight line basis. This policy will also have a dramatic impact on earnings and taxes since these assets make up a large part of Hive’s balance sheet.

Digging further into the notes on the financial statements. The initial deals with Genesis leave Hive public shareholders in a secondary position. Genesis will hold the balance of power. The deal to sell Genesis their shares comes at a great expense to Hive’s shareholders. A finder’s fee of 3.9 million shares was paid to secure Genesis’s 30% stake, and at current market prices, these shares are worth 12 million dollars. Genesis is also the service provider to Hive’s mining operations, so now we have a situation where the “manager” of the assets is also the largest shareholder, I’ve seen situations like this before, and it never turns out good for public minority shareholders.

There have been a number of related party transactions over the past few quarters, and as a public minority shareholder, this would be a red flag.

So Hive doesn’t make profits, the only way they will make money is if the value of crypto currencies gain in value relative to the Canadian and US dollars. Who would want to invest in this company?  I’d say lot’s of people actually. The main investor would be the retail investor in Canada and US who knows enough about crypto currencies to be suckered in my a slick investment sales process. These investors know the potential power of crypto currencies, but not enough to evaluate the profitability of Hive specifically. I think these investors would be better off holding the crypto currencies and riding the wave themselves, rather than entrusting their money to a company with a lot less accountability directly to them. Another strategy for the retail investor who is a potential investor in Hive is to treat their cryptocurrencies as a fun hobby and learn about how to mine themselves. Find a friend who lives in an apartment building where the building pays the electricity, and setup a small GPU mining rig in their apartment, share the profits. You’ll never get rich this way, but actually, the best way to get rich is to do something like the managers of Hive has done, know more than your investors and sell them the investment, pay yourself a handsome fee in the meantime.

 

Bitcoin Futures on CME December 18th

Today the CME announced bitcoin futures trading will begin on December 18th, 2017. This is very exciting news for crypto market participants. Trading in bitcoin futures on a CFTC regulated exchange will move bitcoin closer to the mainstream, add practically unlimited liquidity, and provide bitcoin holders with a way to hedge their bitcoin price exposure to the USD fiat economy.

The CME bitcoin futures contracts will be cash settled based on the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate (BRR), which aggregates bitcoin trading activity across several spot exchanges between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. London time each day. The contract size will be 5 bitcoins; given the current price of $10,000 BTC/USD, the notional value of each contract might be around $50,000. This contract size is probably too big for the average retail trader, but good enough for the rest of us.

FAQ: CME Bitcoin Futures – CME Group – CME Group

Get answers to frequently asked questions about CME Bitcoin futures, including when contracts will launch, how to trade and contract specs.

Bitcoin Heads to Wall Street Whether Regulators Are Ready or Not

Two U.S. exchanges, including the parent of the venerable Chicago Mercantile Exchange, are racing to embrace bitcoin, dragging federal regulators into a realm skeptics call a fad and fraud. The development shows how some big financial players are moving to co-opt the volatile cryptocurrency and lure more mainstream investors into the market, even before regulators have agreed on just what bitcoin is.

Bitfinex Euro Market Update

It’s been a few days since Bitfinex listed Euro trading, so we now have some more data to work with. Even though the Bitfinex USD market is based on tether, and fiat deposits/withdrawals will remain severely restricted, the USD market is still much larger than the Euro market. At the time of writing, the current bid/offer for borrowing/lending Euros on Bitfinex is 0.012% to 0.0243% per day. There is 13,000 bid and 140 offered, so the Euro lending/borrowing market is wide and illiquid. This presents some interesting challenges and opportunities. For those of us capable of making a market (either manually or using bots) the wide spread is not such a big deal, at least as long as our volume doesn’t overwhelm the market. For my purposes, I’d put up to 10,000 Euros into this market before I’d start to worry that I can’t get the money out to lenders frequently enough to earn a liquid rate. But it’s a double edged sword, a choice of risk to reward, about whether to get the money out to borrowers or to try and catch a sucker rate.

I’ve also noticed that the volume offered in the Euro lending book on Bitfinex is kinked. There are only about 360,000 Euros offered at up to 0.08% per day (from a market of 0.025% per day) and then there ar an additional 10,000,000 Euros offered at 0.083% per day. So someone must think that there is some chance that this money will get taken at this rate and they are willing to let the cash sit on the exchange (with all those associated risks) until that time. It’s not my style of trading (I hate dead money), but it helps us get a sense of the possible outcomes (and the ceiling on rates).

A quick glance at the loan book total outstanding shows the USD amount at 461,787,500.86 and the Euro 190,431.82, so the Euro market on Bitfinex has a long way to go in order to catch up to the USD volume.