The crypto craze has officially landed in the stock market. Everywhere you turn, yet another company is getting in on crypto, even if it means manufacturing a reason to do it.
Already this week, crypto holding company Riot Blockchain (NASDAQ:RIOT), MoviePass investor Helios and Matheson Analytics (NASDAQOTH:HMNY), and the 130-year old Kodak (NYSE:KODK) saw elevated volume and volatile share prices this week as traders eager to cash in on cryptocurrency-related announcements flocked to and from their shares. Here's a summary of what happened at each company over the last week.
1. Running out of auditors
Going off the stock chart alone, Riot Blockchain has arguably done the best job of convincing the markets that its shift to the blockchain is real. But behind the scenes, SEC filings tell the tale of potential troubles for this high-flying crypto company.
After the market closed last Friday, Riot Blockchain disclosed that was dropping yet another auditor, making its new auditor its third in just one year. That's not typical. Companies in the Russell 3000 used the same auditor for a median period of 11 years, according to a 2015 study by AuditAnalytics.
Riot said it "dismissed" its auditor on January 4, 2018. Prior to that, its last auditing firm decided "not to stand for reappointment" in January 2017. Make of it what you will, but it's hard to put a good spin on a revolving door of auditors, particularly in light of news that its CEO sold more than $869,000 of stock before the new year.
2. Crypto cinema
Helios and Matheson Analytics is best known for its majority stake in the theater subscription service MoviePass, which allows moviegoers to see an unlimited number of movies at theaters for a flat monthly fee of just $9.95, no strings attached. For obvious reasons, the service is extraordinarily popular, recently announcing that it now has 1.5 million members.
The only problem with MoviePass is that it doesn't have any special agreements that enable it to acquire movie tickets at discounted prices. Instead, its membership cards are ordinary prepaid debit cards, which it funds with cash when its users make a request to see a movie online. AMC Entertainment claimed that MoviePass paid an average of $11.68 for each ticket at its theaters, thus losing money on members who see just one movie a month. (The national average ticket price is closer to $8.95, but MoviePass users have little reason to visit less expensive theaters.)
Despite the poor economics of the underlying business, shares of Helios and Matheson Analytics shares enjoyed a pop on Wednesday when company CEO Ted Farnsworth said his company had entertained the idea of doing an initial coin offering (ICO) in which it would issue its own digital coin to raise cash. Admittedly, cash has been hard to come by for Helios and Matheson, which announced an agreement to raise as much as $60 million by issuing convertible notes on earlier today.
It's hard to imagine how a digital currency would fit within MoviePass's business model, but the mere mention of its own cryptocurrency sent shares flying higher by 28% on Wednesday. With euphoria around crypto as high as it has probably ever been, merely thinking about doing something related to cryptocurrencies is reason enough for a stock to soar. Who would have thought?
3. A dying brand revitalized with blockchain
I saved the best for last with Kodak, a company that enjoyed a two-day, 245% increase in its stock market value after announcing plans to create its own platform (KODAKOne) and its own digital currency (KODAKCoin) to help photographers manage and sell rights to their content. Just so we're clear, we are talking about that Kodak, the one that makes its money selling things like film, inkjet printers, and by licensing its name for a whole host of consumer products.
Kodak's platform is best described as a copy-cat of Shutterstock, a two-sided market where people who need images buy the rights to use images from photographers. For its role in connecting buyers with sellers, Shutterstock takes a cut of each transaction. That's basically how KODAKOne will work, with one major exception: Rather than pay for pictures with U.S. dollars, users will only be able to transact in KODAKCoin.
It's silly, unnecessarily complex, and only makes the service more difficult for photographers and buyers to use, since it adds another step in the process (converting dollars into KODAKCoins, and vice versa). Its CEO is even skeptical of how much value it should add to the share price, telling Barron's that it "doesn't change the fundamentals in a way that means the stock should double." No kidding.
Of course, this is 2018, so when a legitimate (though struggling) company said it was getting into crypto, speculators felt that more than tripling its share price was a reasonable response.