While cryptocurrencies struggle, Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. faces little threat

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The offices of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. are seen Monday, June 6, 2022 in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

On Monday, the cryptocurrency bank BlockFi filed for bankruptcy, the announcement coming less than three weeks after the financial implosion of FTX, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges.

The collapse of free-wheeling and unregulated cryptocurrencies is having an impact on investors who were at the bleeding edge of finance, but the impact on the $76.7 billion Alaska Permanent Fund has been muted, according to public records and statements from officials at the corporation that governs the fund.

“For a while, we were getting a lot of letters saying that it was crazy we don’t own any cryptocurrency,” said Marcus Frampton, chief investment officer for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., speaking in an August interview.

“Those letters have slowed down a little bit,” he said at the time.

While the corporation’s publicly listed assets don’t include cryptocurrency, the fund has invested in companies that facilitate the trading of cryptocurrencies.

Most of those investments are filed in the corporation’s $15.3 billion private equity and special opportunities portfolio.

With private equity, the corporation invests Permanent Fund money into companies that haven’t yet begun selling stocks on the open market. The intent is to buy part of a company that will grow and be much more valuable by the time the corporation “goes public.”

The fund typically invests in third-party firms that pick companies to invest in, and one of those firms put APFC money into FTX, said Paulyn Swanson, the APFC’s communications director.

“The Alaska Permanent Fund has an indirect exposure of approximately $4 million to FTX through our private equity program,” she said in an email.

All of the fund’s cryptocurrency investments combined are a tiny sliver of the private equity portfolio.

“Altogether, APFC’s Private Equity program, including Venture Capital, has invested approximately $20 million into crypto-related investments, has investments with a current value of ~$70 million, and has received distributions of ~$70 million,” Swanson said. “While the current valuations of these investments may come under pressure in the future, overall, this sector has been a profitable (albeit small) area of investment for APFC.”

Asked for details about the fund’s successful investment, Swanson said the corporation was an early investor in Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange.

Two venture capital investments made on behalf of APFC resulted in significant gains when Coinbase began selling stock publicly, Swanson said.

“These investments have distributed $67.6 million back in gains. This Coinbase win in venture capital is the vast, vast majority of ~$70 million we’ve received back in distributions,” she said.

Public records show the corporation still holds some Coinbase stock, but the value of that stock was small, about $250,000 as of Sept. 30.

This story originally appeared in the Alaska Beacon and is republished here with permission.

Alaska Beacon

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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