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ICO’s – The New Crowdfunding Platform: Caution, Speedbump Ahead.

As reported by the Globe and Mail on October 23 2017, the Ontario Securities Commission (“OSC”) has approved an Initial Coin Offering (“ICO”), to TokenFunder, representing its first foray into the land of crypto crowdfunding.  Responding to the markets appetite for ICO based financing, and the inherent need to develop a regulatory framework within which they will operate, the Canadian Securities Administrators has instituted a twelve month exemption to TokenFunder from the requirement to register as a securities dealer.

This funding platform is not without risk.  The underlying cryptocurrencies issued in conjunction with ICO’s may not be classified as securities. They do not convey ownership rights of a company, as is the case with the more traditional common shares, warrants, or other equity instruments.  Instead, they tend to carry with them access rights to a product or platform which has been or will be developed by the issuing company.  There is no guarantee the initiative(s) will ever be completed or commercially viable.  Furthermore, ICO’s remain in regulatory purgatory while governments, securities commissions and exchanges struggle to understand the ICO model and how best to fairly regulate it.

When a company undertakes to complete an ICO, it creates its own cryptocurrency and sells a portion of it under the terms of the ICO.  In a perfect situation, the company builds its platform, is commercially accepted, and demand for their digital currency surges, resulting in an appreciation of value for those holding their digital currency.

Cryptocurrencies are designed from the start to share some fundamental characteristics of precious metals.  After their initial issuance, the volume of additional cryptocurrency issued in a given series is structured to decline over time, creating what amounts to engineered scarcity.  This, coupled with potential success of the underlying platform which forms the basis of the ICO, can generate exponential growth in value of the cryptocurrency itself.

Perhaps the best known cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, introduced January 3, 2009 demonstrates the pinnacle to which all ICO’s strive to achieve. As of November 7, 2017, each Bitcoin in circulation is valued at CAD$9,510 each, benefiting from a wildly successful platform, and engineered scarcity, coupled with worldwide acceptance as a conveyance and store of value.  It’s important to note, however, that Bitcoin was first on the scene in 2009, prior to the explosion of the ICO crowdfunding demand.  While Ontario has just now approved its first one, the number of ICO’s worldwide has exploded, showing no signs of slowing any time soon.   With so many cryptocurrencies and platforms emerging, it is uncertain what the impact on individual investors will be as engineered scarcity, one of the fundamental pillars of the cryptocurrency model, is challenged by an explosion of digital currency entrants.

Bitcoin now finds itself facing challenges as its own success has sparked scrutiny.  More and more, digital currencies are utilized as the monetary conveyance of choice for criminal activity.  Many countries have begun the process of formulating policy with respect to cryptocurrencies and ICO’s, with a few restricting or banning outright certain cryptocurrency or ICO activity. As these digital currencies exist outside the influence of governmental monetary policy with central banks unable to manage what may soon prove to be a significant element of the money supply, regulatory concern continues to mount.  Furthermore, with significant and rapid appreciation in value, comes the question of unsustainable demand, further strengthening the mandate of the regulators.

As the OSC blazes its path towards regulating ICO’s in Ontario, investors find themselves faced with opportunity and a degree of uncertainty as the nature and extent of these regulations are as yet unknown.

This story was written by Robert Suttie, Vice President of Marrelli Support Services Inc. and featured in Service Providers magazine.

Learn more about Marrelli at http://www.marrellisupport.ca// and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/services/services-for-listed-companies/marrelli-support-services-inc


One of the popular ways for private companies to obtain a listing status on the Canadian Stock Exchange (“CSE”) is through a reverse takeover (“RTO”) with an existing listed entity. The most common version of an RTO is when a private operating entity merges with a listed (more or less) shell corporation, effected by way of exchange of equity interests, which typically results in owners of the private entity gaining control of the combined entity after the transaction.

Understanding how the financial records of the resulting combined entity shape up is an essential factor for the leadership of the private entity to gauge the breadth of such a transaction. It is however often overlooked amidst other regulatory requirements. The International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”) and its interpretation, provides specific guidance around this area, which is the subject of this piece.

Despite the public shell corporation issuing shares, from an accounting perspective these transactions are considered to be capital transactions of the private entity looking to obtain the listing status of the non-operating shell corporation. They are therefore equivalent to the issuance of shares by the private entity to acquire the net assets of the public shell corporation. Unlike a straight acquisition achieved through exchange of equity interests, where the accounting records are a continuation of the entity issuing shares, in an RTO, the historical financial records of the private entity are retained. The RTO is accomplished by recognizing, in the financial statements of the private entity, the net assets of the publicly listed shell corporation in return for shares “deemed” to be issued by the private entity to obtain a control position in the combined entity. The equity structure however, (that is, the number and the type of equity instruments issued) of the combined entity, reflects the equity structure of the publicly listed shell corporation, including the equity instruments exchanged in the RTO.

The deemed shares issued by the private entity, which is the consideration it has paid for the acquisition of the public shell corporation, are recognized at fair value and any difference between the fair value of these deemed shares and the fair value of the acquired net assets of the public shell corporation, represents a cost to the private entity. The Interpretation Committee of the IFRS points out that, for the private entity, this difference in fair values is considered to be a payment for service of a stock exchange listing for its shares, and therefore should be expensed through its profit or loss. This is in contrast to the usual treatment of cost of issuing capital, which reduces the value of the capital raised. The leadership of the private entity therefore needs to understand this and evaluate if this is an acceptable impact on their financial reporting.

Although this is a simplistic introduction of what to expect if you choose to obtain a listing on a stock exchange by way of an RTO with a listed shell corporation, accounting for such acquisitions can be quite complex. This could include determining the fair value of the consideration for the transaction (i.e. the value of the deemed shares issued by the private entity), the fair value of the net assets of the public shell corporation, non-controlling interest considerations, earnings per share calculations, to name just a few. The key thought is to ensure to involve your accounting advisors, amid other consultants, at the right time in the whole process so you have a complete picture of the impact of your desired transaction.

This story was featured in Service Providers magazine.

Learn more about Avisar at http://avisar.ca/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/services/services-for-listed-companies/avisar.