Blockchain name-grabbing has echoes of dotcom bubble

LONDON (Reuters) - If you want a quick boost to your company’s share price, adding “blockchain” to your name will work – at least for a while.

Servers for data storage, August 7, 2015. REUTERS/Sigtryggur Ari

Despite a slump in cryptocurrencies that has wiped more than 50 percent off the value of bitcoin since December, the majority of companies that have jumped on the blockchain bandwagon - often from entirely unrelated industries with little or no connected revenue - are still sitting on sizeable gains.

The average share price of such companies has risen more than threefold since such name changes, according to Reuters data, with experts comparing the practice to a similar rush during the dotcom bubble.

(Graphic on blockchain:

Most recently shares in Stapleton Capital BLOC.L, a UK shell company yet to report any revenues, doubled on Jan. 22 after it changed its name to Blockchain Worldwide.

The rally has come despite regulators across the globe taking a closer look at recent company converts to the blockchain name.

U.S. regulators suspended the shares of UBI Blockchain UBIA.PK on Jan. 11 after finding evidence of "unexplained" market activity, while Israel-based Blockchain Mining NRH.TA is plotting an alternative listing after regulators said they planned to ban companies involved in cryptocurrencies in the country.

Both stocks had rallied dramatically since changing their name – more than 1,000 percent in the case of UBI Blockchain – but have since erased almost all their gains.

“It reflects that (blockchain is) a big bubble,” said Huy Nguyen Trieu, an associate fellow in fintech at the Oxford Said Business School, on the spate of company rebrands.

“During the dot-com boom, France Telecom changed its name to France, and because of that its share price exploded.”

Bitcoin’s 40 percent slump this year has been driven partly by growing expectations of a regulatory crackdown on cryptocurrencies. Blockchain is the technology that underpins them, but can have many other business applications as a ledger for recording transactions.

“Crypto is a bubble in the sense that there are a lot of people wanting to buy the asset, but blockchain also in terms of the huge amounts on investment – a lot of that won’t have short-term economic returns,” said Nguyen Trieu.

France Telecom, since rebranded as Orange, wasn’t the only company to benefit from the market’s enthusiasm for all things tech at the turn of the century.

In December 2001, a study by academics at Purdue University found that the 95 companies that added “.com”, “.net” or “internet” to their names saw their share price increase by 74 percent in the 10 days surrounding the announcement day.

And if the current crypto-crash continues, companies have one more name-change trick available.

A study by the University of Illinois in 2002 found that when many of the same companies changed their names again after the bubble burst to remove traces of their dotcom past, their shares rallied by a similar amount.

Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Additional reporting by Jemima Kelly; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Hugh Lawson