The top three Bitcoin mining companies being traded on the US stock market lost more than $1 billion in the second quarter of 2022, according to a report from Bloomberg (opens in new tab). The losses, which were matched by those of the crypto exchanges miners rely on to bring their funds into the real world, came after the collapse of cryptocurrency prices, which led to the value of the companies’ holdings being written down.
The three companies, Core Scientific Inc., Marathon Digital Holdings Inc. and Riot Blockchain Inc., posted quarterly earnings reports that show losses of $862 million, $192 million and $366 million, respectively. Elsewhere, the US crypto exchange Coinbase Global registered a loss of $1.1 billion in the same period, while major Bitcoin investor Microstrategy Inc. also lost more than $1 billion.
The cause seems to be the drop in cryptocurrency prices as miners sold off their coins to cover their costs and fund expansion, as well as repay their debts, and this appears to be continuing into the third quarter of the year despite signs prices were rising again.. July saw the second highest Bitcoin sales of the year so far, with 6,200 coins sold. This follows a June in which 14,600 coins were sold, though only 3,900 were produced, according to figures from Arcane Crypto. Core Scientific is thought to have sold 80% of its holdings.
At the same time, the big mining concerns are taking out loans, with Marathon Digital taking out $100 million (and selling off mining rigs to raise a further $58 million) and Core Scientific going for a $100 million common stock purchase agreement with a private equity firm.
Bitcoin remains profitable for large-scale commercial operations, with each block solved currently worth 6.25BTC, or roughly $120,000 at today’s prices. Energy consumption remains one of the major costs, with US electricity costs rising 12.6% in the last year. The price of the ASICs used to mine the coins has dropped, according to figures from Forbes (opens in new tab), by up to 70% this year. As prices fluctuate, less efficient miners tend to give up, leaving the market in the hands of those with higher-performance mining equipment.
Mining profitability, measured in dollars per terahash per second, peaked in 2017 at $3.39/TH/s. Today it sits at around ten cents/TH/s, having been at 41 cents in 2021.
Cryptocurrency does not have this fractional reserve nature inherently, but individual companies that have taken cryptocurrency and then uses it elsewhere to make money. Hyperinflation is also not a possibility, as the vast majority of coins (including all the valuable ones) are either deflationary or have strong inflation controls as part of the protocol.
They are still vulnerable to regular old nobody-wants-to-buy-your-currency collapse , but that's an entirely different mechanism than a run on a bank. Bitcoin specifically is not vulnerable to the same manner of currency crises that have affected national currencies, but that does not mean it is vulnerable to entirely new and interesting (in the Confucian sense) ones.
It's status as a value intermediary rather than a value store - people think about "what USD is x BTC worth?" when transacting it, rather than "what is what I'm buying worth in BTC?" - further complicates things. If transaction transiency is short enough and valuation flux slow enough, the BTC network can function just as well at "1 BTC is worth 1 cent" and "1 BTC is worth $1 million". That's no consolation to those who try and use it as a value store, though.
Analogies with previous currency crises are not necessarily applicable, so pretty much the most accurate prediction that can be made is "it'll go up and down in value some more, just as it has for the last decade".
Banks in several places outside of the USA can't have a situation where they can't pay their clients if they all come to collect (it's called "provisioning"; edit: I got the term wrong as provisioning is for lending so they don't default, but same-ish principle) and they have different types of accounts as well which operate with different protection. That's not even taking into account insurance and other optional mechanisms you can opt-in into or are State backed. If the Banks in the USA work in such a way that clients can get screwed, that's a problem specific to the USA, sorry.
The responsibilities and liabilities may get shuffled around but the main consequence is still the same: can't get your money back.