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Crypto firm Tether says it has around $1.6 billion in excess reserves to back its USDT stablecoin

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Paolo Ardoino, Tether’s chief technology officer, said the company estimates that the excess reserve will increase by $700 million in the current quarter, which is not yet over.
Justin Tallis | Afp | Getty Images

Cryptocurrency firm Tether estimates it will make $700 million profit in the March quarter, taking its total excess reserves to over $1 billion, the company’s technology chief told CNBC, revealing the latest figures for the first time.

Tether issues the USDT stablecoin, which is pegged one to one with the U.S. dollar. USDT is backed by real-world assets such as fiat currency and U.S. Treasurys so that it is always one to one redeemable with the U.S. dollar.

Stablecoins are used by traders to move in and out of different cryptocurrencies without the need to convert money back into fiat currencies.

Over the years, stablecoin issuers have been criticized for not being transparent enough with the type of assets they hold in their reserve to back their digital currency. Tether held commercial paper, or short-term, unsecured debt that is issued by companies. But Tether didn’t reveal the type of firms or geographical location of companies it had brought the debt from.

Tether eventually sold all of its commercial holdings and moved into U.S. Treasurys, which are considered a more stable and reliable asset. The company produces so-called attestations, which are reports produced by an auditor to attest to the company’s reserves and the assets it holds.

The last report Tether released covering the December quarter showed it had more assets than liabilities.

Tether then revealed in February that it made $700 million in profit in the December quarter. The company’s total assets once liabilities are substracted amount to $960.6 million.

Paolo Ardoino, Tether’s chief technology officer, said the company estimates that the excess reserves will increase by $700 million in the current quarter, which is not yet over. That would take Tether’s excess reserves to $1.66 billion. And it would be the first time Tether crosses the $1 billion mark.

“So this money stays in Tether in the main company in order to further capitalize the stablecoin,” Ardoino said.

Tether makes money from various fees, such as a $1,000 withdrawal fee (with a minimum withdrawal requirement amount of $100,000); from investments in digital tokens and precious metals; and from issuing loans to other institutions.

Circle’s wobbles help Tether

The value of all the USDT in circulation has grown substantially this month from $70.98 billion on March 1 to $78.14 billion on Thursday, according to CoinMarketCap.

That’s thanks in part to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank this month. Circle, which issues a rival stablecoin called USD Coin, revealed it had $3.3 billion exposure to SVB. USDC lost its dollar peg as investors got concerned about the coin’s stability. Investors flocked to tether. After the U.S. government stepped in to guarantee depositors, USDC regained its peg after it said the $3.3 billion USDC reserve deposit held at SVB will be fully available to people.

Ardoino revealed Tether’s estimated profit for the current quarter while defending the company’s record. When asked if Tether would be able to withstand an event like the SVB crisis, Ardoino asked why people are still questioning its reserves even after traditional lenders collapsed.

“First of all, seriously after Credit Suisse and all the others, all the banks that are failing you are looking again at Tether?” Ardoino said in reference to the instability at Credit Suisse, which eventually led to a regulator-brokered $3.2 billion deal for UBS to buy the Swiss lender.

“Tether is making money and banks are failing. So if you have to put money somewhere, I guess that Tether is the most safe among all the choices,” Ardoino said.

CNBC’s Ryan Browne contributed to this report.

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