The recent launch of spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) has brought an end to a major cryptocurrency arbitrage trade. However, another significant opportunity is on the horizon. On May 23, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will face a final deadline to approve or deny VanEck’s application to launch an ETF that holds Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency with a market value of approximately $316 billion. This not only holds importance for other fund issuers like ARK Investment Management and Hashdex but also for holders of the Grayscale Ethereum Trust, which currently has assets worth $7.4 billion.
At present, the trust functions as a closed-end fund, causing its market price to deviate significantly from the value of the Ether it holds. As of Friday, the fund traded at a 12% discount. However, if the conversion to an ETF is approved, this discount is expected to close rapidly, resulting in a staggering $890 million profit for the trust’s investors.
“Our goal at Grayscale has always been to guide our crypto products through a four-stage life cycle, much like that of GBTC, which culminates in uplisting the product as an ETF on a national exchange,” stated a spokesperson from Grayscale.
Given the similarities to the previous case and the potential for substantial profit, some analysts believe that the SEC is left with little choice but to approve the conversion of the Ethereum Trust.
The Potential Approval of the Ethereum Trust: A Promising Opportunity for Crypto Investors
In a significant development, an appellate court overturned the SEC’s rejection of the Bitcoin Trust conversion. This decision was based on the agency’s failure to provide a rationale for approving ETFs holding Bitcoin futures while rejecting those holding spot Bitcoin. Interestingly, the SEC has already given its approval for Ether futures ETFs, such as ProShares Ether Strategy.
Analysts from the renowned investment research firm Capstone stated that the SEC’s options are limited after its defeat against Grayscale, which occurred in October 2023 regarding GBTC. In a recent note, they assigned an 82% probability for the conversion of the Ethereum Trust to take place by the start of June.
However, similar to the GBTC trade, the Ethereum Trust trade is not without risk.
Firstly, investors who do not short Ether will be exposed to the cryptocurrency’s inherent volatility between now and May. Additionally, there is uncertainty surrounding how the SEC will treat Ether compared to Bitcoin. While the agency has classified Bitcoin as a commodity, its stance on Ether being a security remains unclear. This ambiguity creates uncertainty for potential spot Ether ETFs.
Moreover, it is essential to note that the approval process for the Bitcoin ETFs itself was lengthy and required a lawsuit before receiving SEC approval. Approval was narrowly achieved with a 3-to-2 vote, as SEC Chair Gary Gensler sided with Republicans.
When approached for comment, an SEC spokesperson declined to respond.
As time progresses and the agency provides feedback to applicants, the outlook for Ether ETF applications will become clearer. In the meantime, crypto investors are looking towards the Grayscale Ethereum Trust as a potential arbitrage trade with promising prospects.