UBS Wealth Warns Clients Crypto Prices Can Actually Go to Zero

An engineer climbs a ladder in front of illuminated racks of application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) mining devices and power units at the BitCluster cryptocurrency mining farm in Norilsk, Russia, on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. Norilsk may soon be famous for a different type of mining — it now hosts the Arctic's first crypto farm for producing new Bitcoins. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
An engineer climbs a ladder in front of illuminated racks of application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) mining devices and power units at the BitCluster cryptocurrency mining farm in Norilsk, Russia, on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. Norilsk may soon be famous for a different type of mining — it now hosts the Arctic's first crypto farm for producing new Bitcoins. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Strategists at one of the world’s largest wealth managers are issuing a warning to newbie crypto investors plunging into the record rally: You could still lose all your money.

Between regulatory threats and central bank-issued competitors, there’s nothing stopping a wipeout in big-name digital currencies eventually, according to UBS Global Wealth Management.

As Wall Street jumps on the Bitcoin rally like never before, the Swiss firm says prices may rise in the near term, but the industry faces existential risks over the long haul.

“There is little in our view to stop a cryptocurrency’s price from going to zero when a better designed version is launched or if regulatory changes stifle sentiment,” authors including Michael Bolliger, the chief investment officer for global emerging markets, said in a report Thursday. “Netscape and Myspace are examples of network applications that enjoyed widespread popularity but eventually disappeared,” the strategists wrote in response to rising client interest.

With Bitcoin slumping back to $35,000, the famously volatile asset class is stoking debate among the world’s biggest money managers. While famed investors including Paul Tudor Jones and Stan Druckenmiller are entering the industry, critics see gambling, scandal and manipulation.

In the near-term crypto prices could climb anew powered by market momentum, institutional adoption and limited supply. But over the long term, the market risks regulatory intervention, the strategists said, citing the U.K.’s decision to ban sales of certain crypto-derivative products to retail investors.

Like most firms, UBS Wealth is skeptical on the real-world utility of virtual tokens, but stop short of calling crypto prices a bubble, given the difficulty of determining a fair value for an asset without cash flows.

Other investors have put ambitious price targets on Bitcoin, saying it’s destined to keep rising as more institutional investors sell their gold holdings in favor of the digital currency in order to diversify portfolios. Scott Minerd of Guggenheim Investments said Bitcoin could be worth about $400,000, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists see a case for $146,000 in the long run.

“Investors in cryptocurrencies must therefore limit the size of their investments to an amount they can afford to lose,” UBS Wealth said.