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Coinbase files to go public in a key listing for the cryptocurrency category

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Coinbase Co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong
Image Credits: Steve Jennings / Getty Images

This morning Coinbase, an American cryptocurrency exchange, released an S-1 filing ahead of its direct listing. The company’s public debut has been hotly anticipated thanks to recent activity amongst bitcoin and other blockchain-based assets, the company’s controversial political positions and its spiking valuation on private exchanges.

Coinbase’s financials show a company that grew rapidly from 2019 to 2020. More than that, the company also crossed the threshold into unadjusted profitability; it’s common amongst quickly growing tech companies to lean more heavily on adjusted profit and other more flattering metrics.

In 2019 Coinbase lost $30.4 million against $533.7 million in revenue. In 2020 the company’s net income rose to $127.5 million against $1.28 billion in revenue.

The crypto unicorn grew just over 139% in 2020, a massive improvement on its 2019 results. The company’s scale and growth help us understand why some investors are bidding its value up to as much as $100 billion on the private markets.

Coinbase has highly variable revenues. The company posted revenues of $190.6 million in Q1 2020, a number that dipped to $186.4 million in the second quarter. Then Coinbase’s topline accelerated in Q3 2020 to $315.4 million, and $585.1 million in the final quarter of 2020.

It’s easy to see why Coinbase is moving forward with its direct listing now; the company just posted an excellent quarter.

Working for social justice isn’t a ‘distraction’ for mission-focused companies

In that outsized fourth-quarter period, Coinbase generated operating income of $226.6 million, and net income of $176.8 million. Those represent high-quality profitability improvements from preceding periods, and provide Coinbase with attractive end-of-year profit margins.

The cryptocurrency exchange generates the vast majority of its revenues from transaction revenues, as anticipated. Coinbase also has a comparatively modest “subscription and services” revenue category, which was worth around $20.7 million in Q4 2020 revenues.

Finally, Coinbase swung from operating cash-flow negative in 2019 to incredibly cash-flow positive in 2020. However, the $3.0 billion in positive operating cash flow that Coinbase generated last year includes “$2.7 billion related to cash from the change in custodial funds due to customers,” diminishing the number to a more understandable scale.

This is a first look, but Coinbase is a quickly growing, profitable unicorn that looks more than ready for its direct listing. The question ahead of investors is merely how to value Coinbase’s revenue growth as it does track with broader market interest in cryptocurrencies, a historically fluid quantity.

Coinbase is going public via direct listing

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