A company that sold 300,000 bitcoin mining rigs last year is seeking the largest crypto IPO ever

You can either mine for gold or sell pickaxes.
You can either mine for gold or sell pickaxes.
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic/
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During the gold rush of the 18th century, many made their fortunes by selling unglamorous supplies like pickaxes and wheelbarrows to miners. In today’s digital gold rush, supplying equipment to bitcoin miners is where the money’s at.

Canaan Creative, the world’s second-largest maker of bitcoin mining rigs, yesterday (May 15) filed to go public in Hong Kong, according to media reports (paywall). The Chinese company is reportedly seeking to raise up to $1 billion, in what is expected to be the world’s biggest crypto-related initial public offering (IPO) ever.

The company didn’t immediately reply to Quartz’s request for comment about the details of the IPO, which is expected to take place as soon as July.

Canaan is known for mass producing chips designed for bitcoin mining, known as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), under the brand name Avalon. The company comes after Beijing-based competitor Bitmain as the world’s second-largest bitcoin mining hardware supplier in market share. It was founded in 2013 (link in Chinese) by Zhang Nangeng, a chip-design expert in his mid-thirties.

The initial Avalon machine was the first bitcoin-mining ASIC sold to retail users. Prior to that, most people used the graphic cards of their PC to mine the cryptocurrency, which was far less efficient. China-made ASICs are now among the most popular bitcoin mining hardware around the world.

The company’s corporate filing (pdf, in Chinese) to the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday is a vivid reminder of how lucrative the business of making bitcoin mining hardware is, as the document revealed many details about Canaan’s financials for the first time.

According to the filing, the company had revenue of 1.3 billion yuan ($204 million) in 2017, a 27-fold increase from two years earlier. Its profit in 2017 was 361 million yuan, up more than 230-fold from 2015.

Last year, Canaan sold a total of 294,523 Avalon ASICs, tripling the number from a year ago. The company noted that the US and Sweden were its biggest overseas markets last year. In 2017, Avalon mining machines were responsible for 19.5% of the world’s processing power for mining bitcoin, the filing said, citing a report from research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Canaan had previously sought to list in mainland China, but canceled its plan due to regulatory difficulties amid government crackdowns on crypto exchanges and mining farms. But last month, a senior official from China’s security regulator visited the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou to persuade it to reconsider its listing destination, following a call by Beijing to develop its domestic chip industry amid US sanctions against telecom giant ZTE. ”You are essentially a chip firm. You are welcome to issue IPO in the domestic markets,” said Jiang Yang, vice head of the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission.

As Beijing tightens its control over the crypto-mining industry, China’s major players are increasingly shifting their focus overseas. China’s Ebang, another leading ASIC maker which previously delisted from Shenzhen, is also seeking to file an IPO in Hong Kong to raise $1 billion, according to Reuters. Bitmain, which is reportedly developing mining facilities in Europe and Canada, announced yesterday that it led a $110 million funding round in Circle, a Boston-based crypto exchange and wallet service.