U.S. companies list blockchain ETFs as bitcoin proposals languish

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors looking to profit from excitement surrounding bitcoin technology will get a new opportunity this week.

A Bitcoin ATM screen is seen in Santa Monica, California, U.S., January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Funds coming to market on Wednesday will purchase shares of companies, such as Hitachi Ltd, Accenture plc and Inc, that may benefit from the digital asset’s underlying technology.

Rather than buying wild-trading “cryptocurrencies” themselves, the funds’ tactic has mollified uneasy regulators who have denied or tabled more than a dozen proposals for funds that would own bitcoin or futures based on them.

Amplify Investments LLC and Reality Shares Inc are each launching exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that invest in companies betting on blockchain, the decentralized technology bitcoin uses to keep a running record of transactions.

Companies from JPMorgan Chase & Co to Microsoft Corp and Intel Corp said blockchain can help them streamline processes, such as settling financial transactions.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) insisted the ETFs not include the word blockchain in their names if the stocks they hold do not directly collect a significant portion of their revenue from the technology, according to people familiar with the matter. Bloomberg News first reported the SEC’s discussions with companies over their funds’ proposed names.

But the funds - Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF and Reality Shares Nasdaq NexGen Economy ETF - will nonetheless trade with the tickers BLOK and BLCN.

Bitcoin’s 1,500 percent surge last year stoked investor demand for any product with exposure to the asset.

Bitcoin last fell 15.5 percent to $11,500 on the Bitstamp exchange following reports suggesting South Korea could ban trading in cryptocurrencies.

The Reality Shares fund’s backers have said that buying companies that use blockchain to cut costs or start new business lines is a more conservative approach to investing than buying bitcoin directly because those companies are dependent on more factors than just that technology succeeding.

Eastman Kodak Co shares more than doubled last week after the one-time photography leader said it would launch a cryptocurrency called KODAKCoin.

Soft drinks maker Long Island Iced Tea’s shares have doubled since that company shifted its focus to blockchain and changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp.

Three other companies have filed proposals for funds that invest primarily in stocks with blockchain exposure.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Andrew Hay