By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Cryptocurrency dealer Genesis Global Trading said on Thursday it loaned digital assets valued at $1.53 billion (£1.19 billion) to institutional borrowers in the year since it launched its lending business in March 2018, an indication of demand for the emerging lending market for cryptocurrencies.
Institutional borrowers such as hedge funds and other financial firms have used crypto assets to short digital currencies, hedge investments or finance business operations.
Genesis’ total loans reached $425 million in the first quarter, up 15 percent from the end of 2018, the company said.
New York-based Genesis, one of the largest OTC cryptocurrency brokerages, said it had $183 million in active loans at the end of the first quarter denominated in bitcoin, ether, XRP (Ripple coin), bitcoin cash and other coins.
Genesis noted that when it launched its lending business last year, few venues offered large spot digital asset borrowing. Since then, several platforms have emerged.
“We expect more new entrants into the marketplace, and lending rates to correspondingly decrease. But since this space is still so new, I think the strong level of growth will continue for quite some time,” Genesis Trading Chief Executive Officer Michael Moro said in an email
Genesis’ loan book was 68% denominated in bitcoin. The report said there is consistent borrowing demand for bitcoin among market-makers and high frequency trading firms that need working capital for arbitrage opportunities.
Since mid-December 2018, bitcoin has rallied 80%. It was last down 1.8% at $5,428 on the Bitstamp platform late Wednesday.
In the fourth quarter of 2018, Genesis began lending U.S. dollars as a pilot program. Since then, its U.S. dollar business has grown and represents 10% of its active loan portfolio, the second largest after bitcoin.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)