(Reuters) – Bitcoin took another large stride toward mainstream acceptance on Monday after billionaire Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company Tesla Inc revealed it had bought $1.5 billion of the cryptocurrency and would soon accept it as a form of payment for cars, sending the cryptocurrency shooting higher.
The announcements, buried deep in Tesla’s 2020 annual report, drove a roughly 20% surge in the world’s most widely held cryptocurrency to over $47,000. At current prices, 0.8 bitcoins would be enough to buy an entry-level Tesla Model 3.
Investors anticipated other companies will soon join a list of firms that invest in or hold bitcoin including BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, and payments companies Square and PayPal.
Musk has upended Wall Street over the last year and briefly became the world’s richest person as shares of Tesla surged nearly 500% to become the fifth most-valuable U.S. company, leaving other companies and investors eager to follow in his wake.
“If any lesser mortals had made the decision to put part of their balance sheet in Bitcoin, I don’t think it would have been taken seriously,” said Thomas Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital LLC in New York. “But when the richest man in the world does it, everyone has to take a second look.”
The news sparked heavy trading in cryptocurrencies and caused exchanges like Coinbase, Gemini, Binance to experience technical issues, according to Coindesk.
It also generated discussion on Reddit. While discussions of cryptocurrencies are banned on the WallStreetBets community that fueled the GameStop Corp trading frenzy, users in other subreddits posted “to the moon,” expecting more companies to follow suit after Tesla.
A well-known supporter of cryptocurrencies, Musk has weighed in regularly on the past month’s frenzy in retail investment, also driving up prices of the meme-based digital currency dogecoin and shares of U.S. video game chain GameStop.
Experts said they would not be surprised by a closer look from regulators given Musk’s bumpy past with watchdogs.