Mainstream cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global (NASDAQ:COIN) is the largest and best-known marketplace. Over 73 million verified users and some 10,000 institutions use its platform for investing in and holding around 120 different cryptocurrencies.
The popular, easy-to-use interface has seen assets soar to $255 billion at the end of the third quarter, a seven-fold increase from the $36 billion it had one year ago. Despite the stellar gains, its stock hasn’t been quite a star performer, with shares down about 20% from their debut via a direct listing in April.
As a pick-and-shovel play on cryptocurrency, Coinbase has the potential to be a major winning investment, regardless of whether Bitcoin maintains its dominance or Solana or Cardano prove to be actual Ethereum killers.
However, it’s still a hardscrabble play that has yet to perform as well as expected, and for some very good reasons. Below, you can divide into the bear and bull case for whether this is the best time to buy this crypto marketplace for your portfolio.
The other side of the Coinbase
Rick Munarriz: There’s a lot to like about Coinbase as an investor — until you start to zoom in as a crypto trader. Coinbase is the mainstream name that even crypto outsiders know, and understandably so with $255 billion in assets on platform. Unfortunately, it’s more like crypto investing on training wheels. It’s a nest to chirp away in as a baby bird until you’re ready to fly. It’s the first person you date and ultimately leave when things start to get serious.
Crack open the hood, and you’ll see a platform with high trading fees, a history of iffy customer service when things go wrong, and limited options to generate passive income on your investments. You might think it’s great that you can earn 4.5% annually on your staked Ethereum, but that’s only if you lock it up until the world’s second-most-valuable digital currency completes its migration to proof of work. You can earn more than 4.5% on several smaller platforms without having to wait for an event with no actual date to regain access to your crypto. You would think that Coinbase would be the leader in yield on USD Coin (CRYPTO:USDC), the dollar-pegged stablecoin that it created. Nope. All you can earn is 0.15% a year, whereas you can earn yields topping 10% on other platforms.
Stock investors wooed by Coinbase and its high margins may want to take a closer look at the surprisingly low trailing earnings multiple. It’s padded with one-time gains and a perfect storm that is highly unlikely to be duplicated. Analysts see earnings roughly cut in half next year. The bottom line isn’t the only thing that is shrinking here. Monthly transacting users went from 8.8 million in the second quarter of this year to just 7.4 million in the third quarter. Trading volume in its latest report was lower than each of its two previous quarters. Cool nest. It’s time to flap those wings and fly. It’s not me. It’s you.
Patience is still key to investing
Rich Duprey: Even in the crypto world, patience is an investor virtue. Even though Bitcoin has gone up 8 billion percent and Shiba Inu has rocketed 53 million percent higher just in 2021 alone, having a long-term outlook is justified when it comes to Coinbase despite it actually being down 38% from its high point.
Volatility should be expected in the early days of crypto, let alone Coinbase, but such wild swings will impact its transaction revenue. As my colleague Rick notes, global trading volume for the third quarter was down 37% from the second quarter, leading to a 29% drop in Coinbase’s volume.
Even so, Coinbase was able to report having 7.4 million monthly transacting users helping it to generate $1.2 billion in revenue — the third straight quarter of over $1 billion generated. It reported $612 million in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), giving it amazing profit margins of 50%.
So it’s clear the business is solid and on a firm foundation, though I don’t disagree with Rick that Coinbase can do some things better. Much better, even. Still, revenue is forecast to surge to over $8 billion by 2024 when adjusted EBITDA is expected to hit $2.8 billion.
Coinbase has been focused on achieving critical mass, and now as the preeminent crypto marketplace, it has the resources to further innovate in the space. This is a crypto name that has the potential to double, triple, or even become a ten-bagger for investors, so long as they have the patience to ride it out.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.