Intercontinental Exchange sells Coinbase stake for $1.2B

Intercontinental Exchange, the operator of the New York Stock Exchange and the owner of Bakkt digital asset platform, has sold its 1.4% stake in the newly Nasdaq-listed cryptocurrency firm Coinbase.

Announcing the news Thursday on a financial results call for the first quarter of 2021, ICE chief financial officer Scott Hill said that the company sold its Coinbase stake for $1.2 billion. The executive noted that the sale generated approximately $900 million net after taxes.

Hill said that the proceeds were used to reduce ICE’s debt at the end of the first quarter. He noted that the company’s pro forma leverage, or total indebtedness rate, would have been closer to 3.6x compared to 4.2x when ICE acquired mortgage-focused software company Ellie Mae in September 2020.

“We are definitely a bit ahead of schedule, been paying down debt faster than we sort of expected when we started the deal. I mean I would say we were doing that, though, before the Coinbase sale,” ICE’s incoming CFO Warren Gardiner added. He stressed that Coinbase proceeds gave the company “some additional flexibility” as ICE moves into the rest of the year. “We are down to about 3.6 leverage, the target is about 3.25, where we can start to think about buying back stock,” he noted.

ICE’s decision to sell Coinbase shares comes amid the company posting record revenues in Q1 2021 totaling $1.8 billion and up 4% year-over-year. “First quarter revenues, operating income, adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per share were all the best in the history of our company,” the CFO said. He stated that, while ICE’s total transaction revenues slightly declined versus last year, the amount of total recurring revenues increased by 9%.

As previously reported, ICE’s digital asset trading platform, Bakkt, is set to go public on NYSE in Q2 2021 through a merger with VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings.

The biggest crypto exchange in the United States, Coinbase went public on Nasdaq on April 14 with a direct listing of its COIN shares. The shares opened at $381, marking heightened institutional demand as the stock’s pre-listing reference price was just $250. The Coinbase stock closed Thursday trades at $294, following a gradual decline after the listing, according to data from TradingView.

Multiple COIN investors including Coinbase executives sold $5 billion in COIN stocks shortly after listing. Notable sales included those of Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, selling nearly 750,000 shares netting at a total of around $292 million.

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