Let This Iced Tea Company Be a Warning to Hasty Blockchain Investors

February 2, 2018, 8:53 PM UTC

The crypto craze has caused more than a few companies that nothing to do with the virtual currency to pivot. And now at least one might be sobering up. Well, sort of.

Late last year, Long Island Iced Tea Corp.—whose business has been selling non-alcoholic beverages—saw its shares rise six-fold after rebranding itself Long Blockchain Corp. The company said at the time that it planned to partner or invest in companies that develop the decentralized ledgers known as blockchain, the technology that underpins Bitcoin.

It reserved the web domain name http://www.longblockchain.com and although it planned to still operate a ready-to-drink beverage subsidiary, the company also said it would buy up to 1,000 Bitcoin mining machines.

Because mixing beverages and blockchain is such an obvious cocktail.

But now, just six weeks after making its announcement, Long Blockchain Corp. has decided not to purchase the 1,000 mining rigs, according to document filed with Securities and Exchange Commission. Instead it’s going to focus on a merger with British firm Stater Blockchain.

“After thoughtful consideration and in consultation with outside technology advisors, the company will instead focus its efforts on seeking to enter into and ultimately consummate its previously announced proposed merger with Stater Blockchain Limited, a technology company focused on developing and deploying globally scalable blockchain technology solutions across the financial markets, and exploring additional opportunities and strategic investments across the ancillary blockchain ecosystem.”

Shamyl Malik, head of the company’s Blockchain Strategy Committee, said in a statement that the iced tea company continues to believe in the value of mining equipment to the blockchain ecosystem.

“The purchase of these machines, which was negotiated as a no-risk option to the company, was just one of the multiple strategic avenues we have been considering,” Malik said. “We will continue to evaluate the purchase of mining equipment for Bitcoin and other digital currencies as part of our larger blockchain initiative, which includes among other potential transactions the proposed merger with Stater.”

When, and if, this merger will go through is unclear. Shares of the company had been on a downward trend for a year, hitting a low of $1.70 on Dec. 11. Ten days later, the company which was nearing a delisting, made its remarkable shift to blockchain. And shares skyrocketed. Shares have since fallen along with the price of Bitcoin, which is now trading at $8,555 and far below those heady December days when it was closing in on $20,000.

This volatility, and the number of companies that have added blockchain to their names, prompted SEC Chairman Jay Clayton issue a warning in January while giving a speech at the Securities Regulation Institute.

“I doubt anyone in this audience thinks it would be acceptable for a public company with no meaningful track record in pursuing the commercialization of distributed ledger or blockchain technology to (1) start to dabble in blockchain activities, (2) change its name to something like “Blockchain-R-Us,” and (3) immediately offer securities, without providing adequate disclosure to Main Street investors about those changes and the risks involved,” Clayton said in the speech. “The SEC is looking closely at the disclosures of public companies that shift their business models to capitalize on the perceived promise of distributed ledger technology and whether the disclosures comply with the securities laws, particularly in the case of an offering.”