Novogratz Loses $136 Million Trading Crypto

Unlike John McAfee, Mike Novogratz never vowed to eat his own dick if the price of a single bitcoin hasn't eclipsed $1 million by the end of 2020. But the trading loss that his "first-of-its-kind" crypto-focused "merchant bank" has absorbed over the past nine months is probably almost as excruciating.

Net realized and unrealized losses on digital assets at Galaxy Digital Holdings, the firm founded last year by the former Goldman partner, totaled about $41 million in the third quarter - bringing losses for the first nine months of the year through September to $136 million.

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And that doesn't even include the latest leg lower in crypto, when the price of a single bitcoin briefly broke below $4,000 to trade at levels not seen since July 2017. According to Bloomberg, the losses in Q3 were attributed to losing positions in XRP, bitcoin and litecoin. While Novogratz's firm is still a startup, it must report financials because it's part owned by Toronto-listed Galaxy Digital.

"While we continue to improve and strengthen our trading business, lack of overall trading volume in cryptocurrencies has been a headwind," the firm said in a press release. According to the filing, the fair value of the firm's assets, net of short positions, was $90.6 million at the end of September, compared with a cost $172.7 million.

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Galaxy's head of investor relations and corporate communications didn't return Bloomberg's request for comment. Shares of Galaxy Digital traded at record lows after sinking 55% in November. 

But despite the bleak returns, Novogratz is standing by his sunny outlook for crypto (after all, what are his alternatives?).

During an interview with the Financial Times, Novogratz acknowledged that while "it sucks to build a business in a bear market", he expects crypto prices to "flip" in 2019.

"2017 was just fun, it was almost stupid," said Mr Novogratz. "[But] this year has been challenging. It sucks to build a business in a bear market."

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But the project is not for the faint-hearted. "[Staff] anxiety levels go up when crypto goes down," Mr Novogratz said, before adding: "In most traditional business, [such as] Goldman Sachs, you don’t worry. There’s not an existential threat out there."

"You’ll see that flip next year," he said. "That’s when prices start moving again."

And he's not the only crypto bull on Wall Street who is clinging to the long view. Fundstrat's Tom Lee, who was one of the first to call for bitcoin above $50,000, insisted in a recent interview with Coin Telegraph that the price of a single coin would eclipse $1 million within ten years.

"[We] have a price correction taking place, which has caused the price to fall even below its 200-day [a popular technical indicator used by investors to analyze price trends], but if you’ve got time, it will arise. It will not happen within three months, or one year, but in two to three years, and this is the golden time to be in crypto. As soon as Bitcoin crosses its 200-day, we know there will be a flood of money coming."

Lee blamed the drop in bitcoin and other crypto assets on three factors: Bitcoin Cash's contentious hard fork, the SEC's demands that ICOs return money to investors and "terrible" conditions in global markets.

But Lee, like Novogratz, is in a difficult spot. They've yoked their reputations (and, in Novogratz's case, a chunk of his fortune) to crypto. Going bearish - or even ceasing with the bullish comments - could only hurt them.