MUMBAI: Big B is at the crest of a Bitcoin wave which few — least of all the Bollywood men — had probably ever imagined.
The cryptocurrency mania that has gripped Wall Street and many financial markets across the world has driven up the value of a stock investment by the Bachchan family from $250,000 to $17.5 million in two and a half years.
In May 2015, Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek invested $250,000, as part of their personal investment, in Meridian Tech Pte, a Singapore firm founded by Venkata Srinivas Meenavalli.
Like many small technology companies, few outside the trade knew about Meridian. That dramatically changed last week when Meridian’s prime asset Ziddu-.com was acquired by another Meenavalli-backed overseas company LongFin Corp just two days after the latter’s listing on NASDAQ.
When Bachchans had invested in Meridian (under RBI authorised liberalised remittance scheme, or LRS), Ziddu was a “cloud storage and e-distribution startup”.
Ziddu Coins Behind Frenzy
In December 2017, it is described as “a Blockchain technology empowered solutions provider” that offers microfinance using “crypto currencies across continents.”
Thanks to magic words like ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrencies’, the LongFin stock rose more than 1,000% between last Wednesday and Monday, after surging over 2,500% on Friday when the deal to acquire Ziddu.com was announced.
“In lieu of their holding in Meridian Tech, Bachchans received 250,000 shares of LongFin following the asset purchase,” Meenavalli told ETin a text message. At Monday’s LongFin stock price of $70 a share, Bachchans’ holding in LongFin is valued at $17.5 million (which at the current exchange rate is approximately, Rs 114 crore)
How does the company explain this valuation? “It’s crazy… the global euphoria over Blockchain is sweeping the world…no intrinsic value can be attached,” admits Meenavalli.
What would the Bachchans do? Will they try to cash in — go when the going is good? A text message to Amitabh Bachchan went unanswered till the time of going to press.
According to the LongFin press release, Ziddu does micro-lending against warehouse receipts. Behind the stock frenzy is “Ziddu Warehouse Coin”, which the company communique says “is a smart contract that enables importers and exporters to use their Ziddu coins that are loosely pegged to Ethereum and Bitcoin Crypto Currency.”
LongFin claims that importers and exporters convert Ziddu coins into Ethereum and Bitcoin Cryptocurrencies and use the proceeds for their working capital needs. The US-based LongFin Corp is described in the release as “an independent finance and technology company that specialises in structured trade finance solutions and physical commodities finance solutions for finance houses and trading platforms for North America, South America and Africa regions.”
Even if LongFin meets its stated objectives and grows, the hysteria around the newly listed stock may die once the bitcoin bubble bursts. There is no convincing explanation behind the recent surge in rates of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies which originated after the financial meltdown of 2008 and amid growing distrust of fiat currencies which were being devalued by central banks and governments as they relentlessly created new money to keep afloat loss-ridden banks. However, some feel that even if cryptocurrencies lose their charm, Blockchain — the technology that is delinked from any central authority and manages the database that records Bitcoin transactions — may survive.
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