(Bloomberg) -- Bitcoin ETF candidates got another dose of disappointment when US regulators on Friday punted on making a decision on such a product. But the next time they hear from them might be just a few weeks away.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission needs to come to a conclusion on the Bitwise Bitcoin ETP Trust by Sept. 1, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence tally. Regulators can reject, approve or delay. Decisions for applications from BlackRock, VanEck, WisdomTree and Invesco are due just a day later, with others following closely behind.
Crypto adherents are keeping track of the dates because expectations are running high that this time around — unlike past attempts — an exchange-traded fund that invests directly in Bitcoin could receive the regulatory greenlight. In particular, many have glommed onto the fact that BlackRock, the asset-managing powerhouse, has thrown its name into the race — it has a near-pristine record of getting ETFs launched.
Still, the road to a potential spot fund hasn’t been easy nor quick.
“We fully expect a delay in those decisions as well,” said James Seyffart, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “The only thing that could possibly change that view is if we get a decision in Grayscale’s lawsuit against the SEC, and even then, it’s likely we’d see a delay by those deadlines as well.” Grayscale is suing the SEC as it attempts to convert its Bitcoin trust into an ETF.
Many in the crypto community — and fans outside of it — have been longing for a spot-Bitcoin ETF for years. They argue that it would not only make investing in Bitcoin more accessible to everyday investors, but that it would also help bring the digital-assets space closer into traditional financial markets. On the other hand, regulators have consistently cited fraud and manipulation as some of the reasons not to approve such a product. Gemini, founded by brothers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, was the first firm to try for a physically backed Bitcoin ETF with a 2013 filing. It was rejected by the SEC.
But the recent excitement has emboldened issuers to not only try their hand at Bitcoin ETFs but more exotic vehicles as well. A number of companies have submitted paperwork for Ether-futures or Bitcoin-and-Ether-futures-medley funds. Such ETFs don’t currently trade in the US and the SEC had earlier this year rejected attempts for Ether-futures ETFs.
Another potentially positive signal on the SEC softening its stance toward crypto ETFs might be the launch of the Volatility Shares 2x Bitcoin Strategy ETF (ticker BITX), according to the Coinbase Bytes newsletter. That fund debuted in June and has amassed more than $20 million in assets. It was the first of its kind to start trading.
The SEC initially has 45 days within which to come to a determination on the spot-fund applications. That’s followed by another 45 days, then 90 and then 60, for a total of 240. It will have to make a decision within 240 days, Seyffart said.
Plenty of market observers also expect another delay in September.
“The base case for the ETF application has to be that the administrators will do what they have for years and use all their powers to delay the decision,” said Stephane Ouellette, chief executive of FRNT Financial, an institutional platform focused on digital assets. “Even if these products were ultimately approved, it would be very surprising to see them approved at the first instance they are able to be.”