Trend of Global Crypto Mining: Despite the US-China Trade War, Activity Surges as Samsung and GMO Enter
Despite the breakeven cost of Bitcoin mining at nearly $8,000, the demand for mining is increasing.
Throughout 2018, the cryptocurrency market experienced the fourth worst correction in its nine-year history, as Bitcoin lost more than 69 percent of the value from its all-time high of $19,500.
Despite the substantial decline in the price of Bitcoin (BTC), which heavily affects the earnings of miners, the hash power of the Bitcoin network has continuously increased throughout the past 10 months, from 15 million TH/s to over 50 million TH/s from January to October.
As portrayed by the research of blockchain analyst Barclay James, the breakeven cost of mining Bitcoin at 35 million TH/s is around $6,900. The formula employed by James considers the hash power of the Bitcoin network, the hashing power of an ASIC Bitcoin miner, and the efficiency of each miner in producing BTC:
# units = global hashing power ÷ unit hashing power ÷ unit efficiency
Given the cost of Bitcoin mining, when its hash power is currently around 35 million TH/s and the value is $6,400, the breakeven cost of Bitcoin is in the $7,000 to $8,000 range. Which means, at $6,400, Bitcoin miners are losing money by generating BTC and are solely relying on their expectations of the price of BTC to eventually increase in the months to come.
For miners outside of China, specifically the mountainous region of Sichuan known to have the cheapest electricity in Asia and a cold climate that naturally cools down cryptocurrency mining equipment, it is even more expensive to mine BTC. The paper of Barclay James reads:
“China has some of the world’s cheapest electricity rates as well as average temperatures consistent with temperate regions. This is important as cooling is one of the largest overheads in mining. In addition, the country’s generally low operating costs also give it a competitive advantage. In fact, current estimates place 70 % of global hashing power in China, the majority of which is located in the Sichuan region.”
Since June, Bitcoin miners have been mining the dominant cryptocurrency at a significant loss. The fact that the hash power of BTC has continuously risen throughout the bear market of 2018 demonstrates large activity in the global cryptocurrency mining sector and the confidence of miners that the industry will recover as the year comes to an end.
Bitmain and its Antminer sold at a discount
BitMEX Research, a cryptocurrency firm that operates as a research subsidiary of major digital asset exchange BitMEX, disclosed in its paper in August that Bitmain, the dominant conglomerate in the cryptocurrency mining sector, has been deliberately selling its latest Bitcoin ASIC miner Antminer S9 at a lower price.
In 2017, Bitmain sold more than one million Antminer S9 miners and another 700,000 of them in the first quarter of 2018. According to the researchers, who calculated the disclosed gross profit margin of Bitmain in 2017 and the implied cost of each miner. Bitmain has set a negative profit margin of 11.6 percent for the Antminer S9, its main product.
The researchers stated that the distribution of Antminer S9 miners at such a low profit margin and the sudden increase in the sale of the miner in the first quarter of 2018 suggest the company employed a strategy to outsell its competition by underpricing its products.
“These low prices are likely to be a deliberate strategy by Bitmain, to squeeze out their competition by causing them to experience lower sales and therefore financial difficulties. In our view, herein lies the key to one of the main driving forces behind the decision to IPO. A successful IPO may increase the firepower available to continue this strategy and eliminate an advantage rivals could have by doing their IPOs first.”
The paper also proposed that the company may simply have too many Antminer S9 miners in its inventory.