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Iris Energy, a publicly traded sustainable Bitcoin mining firm (IREN), has agreed to sell investment bank B. Riley Financial up to $100 million in equity over a two-year period.
That’s B. Riley’s second significant investment in the mining sector (it signed the same $100 million deal with Core Scientific in July) despite the industry facing stiffening competition and narrowing profits amid the crypto bear market. The move shows the continued interest some traditional financial firms still have in Bitcoin even in the face of obvious headwinds.
According to a filing with the SEC on Friday, B. Riley could buy up to 25 million IREN shares in the 24 months following September 23, amounting to a 31% stake in the company. Iris has already issued 191,174 ordinary shares from that total as consideration for the bank’s commitment.
“We intend to use any proceeds from the Facility to fund our growth initiatives (including hardware purchases and acquisition and development of data center sites and facilities), and for working capital and general corporate purposes,” Iris said in the filing.
Iris added that proceeds from the sale may not be used by Iris in ways that B. Riley does not agree with, or which may “may not yield a significant return.”
Iris shares closed down 9% on Friday, the day of the filing. The stock has plummeted 35% over the past month, and over 85% over the last year.
Such share losses are common across a wide array of crypto firms this year. Core Scientific (CORZ), the other Bitcoin miner B. Riley has invested in, has fallen roughly the same amount in the past year. The publicly traded miner was forced to dump the vast majority of its Bitcoin holdings in Q2.
Bitcoin miners profit by earning a fixed number of Bitcoin every time they mine a block, which secures the network. Mining those blocks using a process called proof of work takes a lot of energy, which has led many critics to shun Bitcoin as an environmental scourge—something critics can no longer say about the Ethereum network after it transitioned to proof of stake.
As Bitcoin’s price has fallen across 2022, so too have miner profits. This had led to major Bitcoin selloffs and even bankruptcies among mining companies. Adding to the trouble is that the network’s hash rate continues to climb, meaning miners must become increasingly cost-efficient to remain competitive.
Nevertheless, major mining operations are investing for the long term. Despite selling off more coins in July, Core Scientific deployed another 14,000 ASIC servers that same month.