Coinbase’s COIN stock reference price set at just $250, as 1,700 staff get free shares


Major U.S. exchange Coinbase’s COIN stock has received a reference price at $250 from Nasdaq, ahead of the much-anticipated direct listing on the stock exchange just hours from now.

The price is far below the current FTX pre-trading price of $600, albeit on thin 24-hour volume of under $4 million.

The exchange is going public via a direct listing instead of an IPO, meaning the reference price is not a direct indicator of the company’s market cap. It simply implies a valuation of $65 billion, which is below other estimates ranging between $68 billion and $120 billion.

The Nasdaq announcement stated that the reference price, which reflects past transactions but was established by consultation with Coinbase’s financial advisors, was created due to the fact “COIN has not had recent sustained trading in a private placement market.”


The reference price does not reflect the opening price, the announcement made clear:

“Please note that the reference price is NOT an offering price and nobody has purchased or sold shares at that price. The opening public price will be determined based on buy and sell orders in the opening auction on Nasdaq.”

This is the first significant direct listing on the Nasdaq. According to CNBC, across “the five significant direct listings that have taken place on the New York Stock Exchange — Spotify, Slack, Palantir, Asana, and Roblox — the opening price was on average about 37% above the reference price.” Following this trend, it would put Coinbase’s opening price above $340, with a valuation of around $90 billion.

The trading price could surge even higher with the Coinbase pre-listing contract CBSE currently trading around $600 on the FTX exchange, representing a 140% premium above the reference price. Another indicator suggesting a strong first day was the Q1 2021 financial statement suggesting revenue spiked to $1.8 billion bringing in net income up to $800 million, which is up from the $32 million recorded during the same period last year.

In the lead-up to the Nasdaq listing, Coinbase surprised all 1,700 full-time employees by giving them 100 shares each, worth $25,000 at the current reference price. The March 25 “thank you” gift is a no-strings-attached grant, meaning they could sell them immediately after the listing goes public tomorrow.

These shares are in addition to the 105,510 share options handed out to employees of Coinbase’s Irish arm in recent years.

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