For much of bitcoin’s tremendous ascent in 2017, former Fortress PM Mike Novogratz was one of its biggest cheerleaders, who not only made a killing previously on both Bitcoin and Ethereum, but actually put his crypto money where his mouth was. And while in December 2017 he scrapped plans to launch a crypto hedge fund shortly after bitcoin peaked just below $20,000, one month later, Novogratz announced that he was launching what Bloomberg called “The Goldman of Crypto”: a cryptocurrency merchant bank – effectively also an investing fund – called Galaxy Digital LP which would be listed on the Canada TSV Venture exchange.
Novogratz pitched Galaxy as building a “best-in-class, full service, institutional-quality merchant banking business in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space” and will be active in four areas: trading, principal investing, asset management and advisory work.
Fast forward six months when Galaxy Financial released its first set of financials since going public, and – well – it could have been better, because for the quarter ended March 31, Galaxy Digital reported a $134 million loss, of which the bulk was in unrealized losses on digital assets. This was the first time Galaxy Digital released financial statements, a requirement by Canadian regulators in exchange for listing the merchant bank on Canada’s TSX Venture Exchange, Bloomberg reported.
As broken out below, the merchant bank suffered a $13.5 million realized loss on assets, as well as an additional $85.5 million unrealized loss.
The bank also reported a $22.9 million unrealized loss on investments.
Looking at the balance sheet, the merchant bank disclosed $281.7 million in total assets on March 31, including $225.8 million in digital assets and investments – of which $104MM was in digital assets, and $121.4MM in investments.
Commenting on the results, Novogratz who is the merchant bank’s CEO, said “I am very proud of the progress that we have made since the beginning of the year. We have assembled a world-class team with deep institutional knowledge and expertise and have also made significant strides in scaling our four core business lines.”
In January, Novogratz announced plans to raise C$250 million ($192 million) in a series of transactions, and listed shares of his Galaxy Digital on Canada’s junior stock exchange.
The plans require Galaxy to buy Canadian crypto startup First Coin Capital Corp. and then merge with a Canadian shell company, Bradmer Pharmaceuticals Inc., through a reverse takeover. Bradmer, to be renamed Galaxy Digital Holdings, will own an interest in the merchant bank and be listed on the Canadian exchange. The firm expects to have more than 70 employees after the combination.
And while Novogratz aimed to have the deals done by the end of the first quarter, additional regulatory demands delayed his plans. As a result, the operations is mostly sole-sourced as the hedge fund manager has contributed $302 million in crypto assets to build the merchant bank and his home office provided a $130 million credit line to fund operations until the transactions close. As of the end of March, the firm owed $78.8 million under the revolving loan. Outside investors have provided an additional $242 million in capital to the business.
Galaxy Digital disclosed that it has invested $86.8 million across 11 investments and six add-on acquisitions this year. Those include investments in crypto asset lending platform BlockFi, a crypto-secured consumer lending platform, and AlphaPoint, which helps institutions launch cryptocurrency exchanges and tokenize assets.
Alas, this is probably not the start that Novo, as he is also known, had been hoping for, with unrealized losses of roughly a third of his assets, although in the context of Bitcoin’s collapse from all time highs which was as much as 70%, a 30% drop would actually be respectable.