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Overstock rides cryptocurrency craze as ICO drives latest surge

(Bloomberg) -- Overstock.com Inc., the first major retailer to accept bitcoin, has found the antidote for sluggish stock performance: more bitcoin.

Shares of the discount e-commerce company have more than doubled since the start of August, when the retailer began letting shoppers pay with all major digital tokens. They jumped 23 percent on Sept. 27, when it announced plans for an exchange for trading cryptocurrencies. Investors reaped a similar windfall this week after plans for an initial coin offering, or ICO, were unveiled.

If Overstock successfully completes the ICO, which is being conducted through its tZero subsidiary, it will be the first major public company to achieve this milestone.

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Shoppers browse items marked as 20% at the Overstock.com Inc. outlet store in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. More than 131 million consumers are expected to shop Cyber Monday events, up from 129 million last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Photographer: Ken James/Bloomberg

“Three years ago I stood up in front of an audience for the opening keynote speech at Bitcoin 2014, in Amsterdam, and told the world that the main event of bitcoin is not bitcoin, it is the blockchain, and it would change the world,” Overstock Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne said in a statement Tuesday.

Blockchain, the shared digital ledger behind bitcoin, may be the main event, but investors seem more focused on the digital tokens. Initial coin offerings, which allow companies and individuals to raise money by selling their own virtual coins, have brought in more than $3 billion this year, according to Coinschedule.com.

D.A. Davidson’s Tom Forte, one of the only equity analysts who covers Overstock, expects the shares to reach $57 in the next 12 to 18 months, up from his $36 target before the ICO was announced. Overstock’s shares reached a record high of $77.18 in 2004.

“We are encouraged by the announcement and the direction tZERO is taking its business,” Forte wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

Overstock isn’t the only one to have reaped rewards from its move into the $165 billion world of cryptocurrencies. Take MGT Capital Investments Inc., the cybersecurity firm with ties to controversial anti-virus software developer John McAfee. Its shares have skyrocketed more than 150 percent this year as the company ramps up its bitcoin mining operations, which it has promised will bring profitability.

If that’s not enough evidence, check out Bioptix Inc., a maker of diagnostic machinery for the biotech industry that is using blockchain to reinvent itself following years of stagnant stock performance. It exited penny-stock territory earlier this month after renaming itself Riot Blockchain Inc. Shortly thereafter, Social Reality Inc.’s shares surged 71 percent when the micro-cap advertising technology firm said it was considering an ICO.