The story of cryptocurrencies in 2017 was one of meteoric price rises, as markets for everything from bitcoin to the most abstract altcoin experienced strong growth. The influx of new capital and interest unsurprisingly coincided with an uptick in coverage from mainstream media, and as a result, cryptocurrency can no longer be regarded as a niche minority interest.
However, the rise of cryptocurrencies, and in particular bitcoin, has not been universally welcomed, with some of the fiercest critics emerging from the existing mainstream financial and banking establishment.
The latest big name to add their voice to those calling for caution is world-famous investor Warren Buffett, regarded as the most successful investor of all time.
According to an interview with broadcaster CNBC this week, Buffett joined the chorus of concern from mainstream financial voices, in describing what he foresees as a ‘bad ending’ for cryptocurrencies, and for all those invested in them.
“In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say with almost certainty that they will come to a bad ending … When it happens or how or anything else I don’t know.”
Confirming that his firm, Berkshire Hathaway did not and will never take a position in any cryptocurrency, Buffett continued, saying he would back a decline in price over the next five years if he could.
The comments come just a matter of months after previous statements from Buffett, where he suggested bitcoin would be impossible for serious investors to value, given the lack of any inherent value in the currency itself.
Conceding his limited knowledge on bitcoin futures, Buffett decried cryptocurrencies as a ‘real bubble’ at the time, echoing similar calls from other senior financial executives.
His comments chime with those of JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who memorably labelled bitcoin a ‘fraud’ in 2017, comments he has more recently admitted he regrets having made.
However, since then, JP Morgan Chase has been seen to be somewhat more receptive to bitcoin and other cryptocurrency markets, including rumours around potential investments in the space.
Still, Buffett’s comments add more authority to the calls from bitcoin bears, who continue to warn of instability in the cryptocurrency markets. With 2018 already off to a muted start, compared to the closing weeks of 2017, it remains to be seen whether Buffett will be found to be correct.