Shares of cryptocurrency company Riot Blockchain (RIOT 11.85%) fell 35% in May, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The company mines -- the process in which the cryptocurrency is created by a computer -- Bitcoin (BTC 6.47%); thus, their share prices are closely correlated. Bitcoin lost about one-third of its value in May, so Riot Blockchain stock followed suit.
Riot also announced financial results for the first quarter of 2021 in May. Revenue increased 881% year over year to $23.2 million, getting a boost not just from skyrocketing Bitcoin pricing (which was up 781% from the end of March 2020 to the end of March 2021) but also from more Bitcoins mined. During the first quarter, 491 were mined, compared with just 303 in the same period the year before.
Bitcoin is now priced at about $35,800 as of this writing, versus the $46,700 average price used to calculate Bitcoin mining revenue during the first quarter of 2021. Given the ongoing volatility in cryptocurrency values, it's hard to predict where Riot is headed next.
Volatility aside, Riot is committed to growing its Bitcoin mining operation and has reported it's purchasing lots of new mining rigs -- the computers used in the creation of cryptocurrency. It also entered into an agreement to purchase the largest Bitcoin mining facility in the U.S., Whinstone, for an undisclosed amount. If it can continue to ratchet up the amount of Bitcoin it can mine each quarter, that could go a long way toward offsetting volatile Bitcoin prices.
At the end of the day, though, this stock will fluctuate wildly along with cryptocurrencies. At the end of March, Riot said it had nearly $276 million in cash and Bitcoin, along with no debt. And as of April 30, 2021, it had 1,771 Bitcoin on its balance sheet (worth about $101 million as of market prices at that time). The company has been raising cash by issuing new stock to expand its mining operations and could use Bitcoin on balance to pay for its expansion as well. But Riot's fortunes will be dependent on the price of Bitcoin for the foreseeable future, as that will directly determine its revenue from mining and the value of the cryptocurrency it has on hand.
Riot Blockchain's market cap is at $2.7 billion as of this writing, nearly 50 times trailing 12-month revenue (though that figure is likely to moderate if the company can keep reporting revenue similar to Q1's). Nevertheless, this is no cheap stock. Investors that want to speculate on the value of Bitcoin might be better off buying Bitcoin itself.