Home / Observatory / Financial / Overstock.com Shares Spike After Online Retailer Says Its Entering Digital Coin Trading Business


On Wednesday this week, retailer Overstock.com shares surged after news that its subsidiary is joining the business of trading digital coins. 

Shares shot up by 23.5% to their highest since Janurage 2014, and are up 65% for the year. 

Overstock's majority-owned subsidiary tZero, as well as two financial services companies RenGen and Argon, made an announcement on Wednesday that they are entering a joint venture to launch an alternative trading system for trading digital coins issues in initial coin offerings (ICOs). 

According to the release, the system is "in compliance with SEC and FINRA regulations." Overstock has a license for an alternative trading system through its acquisition of Pro Securities two years ago.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission and FINRA had no comment to CNBC.

"Overstock has been very methodical on getting the necessary regulators on board," said analyst at DA Division (which has a buy rating on the stock) Tom Forte. "Their process has been thorough. That said, this is still a very early stage financial services market."

CEO of Overstock, Patrick Byrne, told CNBC that the trading platform is expected to be ready in approximately two months. "We can start moving these ICOs in and provide good, regulated trading," he said.

"Argon gives us the deal flow," Byrne added, while RenGen will be the market maker, providing a bid and an offer for trades. 

According to CoinDesk, ICOs have raised an equivalent of more than $2 billion in the last two years, with the bulk of the fundraising occurring this year. The fundraisers, or token sales, are often seen as a more efficient way to raise capital – rather than going through venture capitalists or other more traditional methods.

However, the lack of regulation has typically prevented US investors from officially participating in the initial coin offerings. In late July, the SEC signalled that securities laws might apply to the digital coins and issued an investor bulletin that warned investors of the risks of investing in the coin offerings. 

Analysts saw the Overstock subsidiary's joint venture as positive news for the development if ICOs.

"I think this is exactly the kind of platform for facilitating security token trading that the SEC wants to see developed," said Ruan Schoen, senior financial services policy analyst at Washington Analysis. "This move clearly increases pressure on existing exchanges that traffic in tokens that could be deemed securities to come into compliance with SEC and FINRA regulations."

This news is just the latest in Overstock's venture into digital currencies.

In fact, in 2014, the company became the first major retailer to accept digital currency bitcoin as payment. Overstock's Medici Ventures division, which has majority ownership of tZero, also launched to 2014 to oversee the retailer's work in blockchain technologies. 

Overstock reported a pre-tax loss of $3.3 million from its Medici unit in the second quarter, $400,000 more than the same quarter last year. 

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