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The Blockchain Wave Isn’t Always Smooth Sailing

Just like the volatility of bitcoin, the world of blockchain is no stable place. Hype over distributed ledger technology (DLT) has certainly led to a bump in shares for companies operating in the space — and even for some companies with seemingly no connection to the tool. But it’s not all smooth sailing. In this week’s Blockchain Tracker, PYMNTS looks at the ups, downs and incoming regulatory efforts surrounding DLT.

 

Blockchain Ups

In last week’s Blockchain Tracker, PYMNTS took a look at some of the most confusing business model pivots toward blockchain, usually in an effort to bump stock value. This week, another big name — Kodak — announced a blockchain pivot, only this time, the initiative could actually work.

Reports in Bloomberg this week said the Eastman Kodak Co. is planning to launch its own cryptocurrency, Kodakcoin, described as “a photocentric cryptocurrency to empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management.”

Kodak surely welcomed a stock bump of up to 77 percent on Tuesday (Jan. 9), but as reports noted, its entrance into blockchain isn’t so far-fetched, as the firm aims to address a key pain point for the photography industry.

More big names strengthened their blockchain ties this week, too, including IBM and the venture capital arm of Comcast, Comcast Ventures, which announced their support for a new blockchain accelerator, MState. IBM will provide support services while Comcast Ventures will provide financial investment to the accelerator, which itself plans to invest between $25,000 and $50,000 into early-stage blockchain startups and link them to potential Fortune 500 clients.

 

Blockchain Downs

Kodak may be able to prove that a blockchain pivot could work. Unfortunately for one company, those pivot plans have fallen through.

The Long Island Iced Tea Company made headlines when it announced plans to change its name to Long Blockchain and overhaul its business model to mine bitcoin. The company also sought to raise $8.5 million as part of the shift. In response, investors tripled the firm’s share value overnight.

Reports in ARS Technica, though, say Long Blockchain has scrapped its stock offering plans. While the firm said it will move forward with plans to enter the bitcoin mining space, the company noted it “can make no assurances that it will be able to finance the purchase of the mining equipment.”

The publication said recent financial reports from the firm say it has $429,000 in available cash; bitcoin mining technology could cost millions. In response, share values have wavered, though they are still worth more than double what they were before plans for Long Blockchain surfaced, reports said.

 

Regulatory Moves

The blockchain hype certainly hasn’t risen without catching the attention of regulators. Some policymakers are beginning to step into the space, including in the state of Nebraska, in which a lawmaker has submitted three bills focused on distributed ledger and cryptocurrency technology.

Reports in CoinDesk this week said Senator Carol Blood submitted three bills to the Nebraska Legislature, one that would “authorize and define smart contracts [and] authorize use of distributed ledger technology in the Electronic Notary Public Act and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act.” Reports noted the efforts echo those seen in Nevada, with one bill that aims to “prohibit cities and villages and counties from taxing or otherwise regulating the use of distributed ledger technology.”

The Swiss government is taking exploratory measures on blockchain regulation too. CoinDesk said lawmakers there have created Taskforce Blockchain led by Finance Minister Ueli Mausrer and Economics and Education Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann. Reports said the group will focus on legal guidelines for the controversial ICO and for blockchain companies in general.

“[Blockchain is] becoming more important as a technology for many industries, not just crypto finance. [What is needed is liberal regulation], which opens opportunities for Switzerland’s position while at the same time reducing risks,” said Schneider-Ammann in a statement.

Finally, in what could be filed as a “Blockchain Down,” the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has reportedly blocked trading for UBI Blockchain stock, based in Hong Kong. Questions have mounted over the company’s recent public filings, as well as over its 2,000 percent share price increase in the last year.

“The Commission temporarily suspended trading in the securities of UBIA because of (i) questions regarding the accuracy of assertions, since at least September 2017, by UBIA in filings with the Commission regarding the company’s business operations; and (ii) concerns about recent, unusual and unexplained market activity in the company’s Class A common stock since at least November 2017,” a statement from the SEC noted.

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