Casual investors who have been following the rise of cryptocurrencies fall into one of two camps. You’ve got those who are itching to get their hands on the new currency, believing it will continue to grow and disrupt the financial sector. And you’ve got those who are looking at the whole thing skeptically because of the fact that it’s completely unregulated — which draws a worrying parallel to penny stock trading. Regardless of which camp you fall into, you might want to take a closer look at Overstock.com Inc (NASDAQ:OSTK), an online retailer that has become one of the best ways to play the Bitcoin trend without dealing in the currency itself.
Once upon a time, investors who owned Overstock stock were betting on e-commerce. The firm was doing pretty well for itself, holding up against the likes of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and keeping its aspirations to eventually become a cryptocurrency mogul mostly quiet. However, over the past six months, we’ve seen OSTK stock skyrocket more than 400% as the company revealed its plans to build out its cryptocurrency business and abandon its retail roots.
In early December, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne launched the largest Initial Coin Offering (ICO) the world had ever seen. The $250 million offering was made through Overstock’s own exchange tZero and confirmed that Byrne was planning to double down on cryptocurrencies. Leading up to that point, Byrne had been quietly building a blockchain empire.
Overstock currently owns 10 different blockchain companies, and the firm has been accepting payment for its goods in Bitcoin for the past four years. The company has also launched its own blockchain-powered exchange that allows users to trade coins and conduct ICOs called tZero. What makes tZero so appealing is that the exchange complies with SEC and FINRA regulations. That’s a big deal because regulators have been working to clamp down on ICOs in an effort to reduce the fraud that has run rampant throughout the cryptocurrency community.
As cryptocurrencies continue to gain momentum, worthy exchanges that meet regulators’ demands and offer investors stability and security are going to carve out a place in the future. The meticulous advance planning by tZero will likely give it a leg up on competitors. The company has already been working within regulators’ framework.
Whether you think Bitcoin will eventually rule the world or not, there’s no doubt that blockchain is a revolutionary technology. It will continue to grow as more and more industries take advantage of it. Blockchain is the technology that cryptocurrencies run on and allows users to make recorded transactions in real-time.
Proponents of blockchain say the system will reshape a wide variety of industries from healthcare to medicine. Overstock is placing bets on that technology as well. In addition to its work on tZero, Overstock has also partnered with a global property registry to create a joint venture called De Soto. De Soto will use blockchain to document property ownership records. This will eliminate the need for an intermediary and make transactions more efficient and safer.
Should You Buy Overstock Stock?
There’s no denying that a more than 400% rise in just six months is a little scary. But consider how serious Overstock is about furthering its blockchain aspirations. The rising share price looks justified for those who see the technology continuing to gain momentum. Some see Overstock stock making its way to between $200 and $400 over the next few years as its blockchain and cryptocurrency ventures pan out.
A lot of the decision about whether or not OSTK is a good buy depends on your outlook for cryptocurrencies. Overstock ranks below Japan’s SBI Holdings and Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ: GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL). Google is the third most active corporate investor in blockchain. So if you want to bet on blockchain with a publicly-traded stock, OSTK is not a bad shout. GOOGL’s size and diversified businesses make its ties to the technology much looser than what you’d get with OSTK.
Overstock is one of the purest blockchain bets on Wall Street right now — and it’s likely to get even purer. Byrne has said he is considering selling Overstock’s retail business and that he would use the influx of cash to reinvest in blockchain, shifting the company’s entire focus onto cryptocurrencies.
As of this writing, Laura Hoy was long AMZN.