Feb 2, 2023
Troubled Crypto Miners Get Breathing Room as Bitcoin Rebounds
(Bloomberg) -- Rising Bitcoin prices are buying some time for distressed crypto miners as they renegotiate debt with lenders to stay afloat.
A trio of Bitcoin mining companies managed to improve their loan terms this week with the world’s largest cryptocurrency hovering near the highest level since August. Greenidge Generation Holdings Inc. and Terawulf Inc. reached agreements with their lenders to reduce debt, in part by selling shares to them. And a court has allowed Core Scientific Inc., the largest miner by computing power, to refinance its bankruptcy loan so it can continue to operate.
Shares of publicly-traded mining companies have climbed along with Bitcoin prices over the last few weeks, making them a more attractive bargaining tool in debt-relief chats. Greenidge was able to push back on the deadline to repay its $11 million debt with B. Riley, and part of the deal will allow the lender to purchase shares at a discount. Terawulf, which has been supported by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Mindy Kaling, will be able to defer amortization after raising $32 million from equity proceeds. And Core Scientific will be able to double the size of its bankruptcy loan to $70 million after a judge acknowledged the value of its assets had increased.
“When you have this kind of change in value, it’s appropriate to sit down and reset,” Core Scientific attorney Ray C. Schrock said during a hearing in Houston Wednesday.
While the recent rebound in Bitcoin prices has prompted higher share prices and appreciation of crypto-mining assets, miners are nowhere close to a full recovery. Mining shares are still deep in the red, with one measure down 60% over the past year.
A glut of Bitcoin mining machines, which are among the most valuable mining assets, continue to depress prices by as much as 85% for some models.
Elevated energy costs — due to extreme weather and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — are still compressing profit margins. For instance, ice storms in Texas this week sent power costs soaring while also causing damage to machines not prepared for extreme weather.
Meanwhile, mining difficulty, a measure of computational power for Bitcoin mining, has hovered around an all-time high in recent weeks. That means it is likely for each miner to receive less reward in Bitcoin from the blockchain.
Looking ahead, a number of miners are looking for executives with expertise in financing. Argo Chief Financial Officer Alex Appleton and Riot Platforms Chief Commercial Officer Chad Everett Harris both departed this week. Additionally, Bitfarms Chief Executive Emiliano Grodzki resigned in late 2022 while Greenidge CEO Jeffrey Kirt left shortly before the firm warned of a potential bankruptcy in December.
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