A Firm Asked to Halt Its Stock After the Crypto Craze Sent It Surging

  • Stock halted after surge amid digital-currency speculation
  • Firm says crypto investment possible, but no current plans

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AIQ Ltd. lasted just three days on the London Stock Exchange before the crypto craze became too much.

The special purpose buyout firm, formed to target data mining, artificial intelligence and social media companies, requested a trading suspension Friday “for an orderly market to be facilitated” after its stock rose about 1,500 percent since its initial public offering earlier this week.

Twitter users have speculated that the firm will enter the digital-currency space. While it’s “entirely possible” the company will invest in a blockchain or bitcoin-related company, there are no current plans to do so, AIQ Chairman Graham Duncan said by phone. The trading halt was sought because “it’s best that everyone takes a bit of a breather.”

The company is just as likely to invest in an e-commerce business, Duncan said, adding that it has not yet identified any specific targets. AIQ’s founders Soon Beng Gee and Lee Chong Liang also run an e-commerce consultancy based in Malaysia.

Duncan is “stunned and surprised” at the share move, he said, adding that the stock’s rally is “as much of a mystery to us as it is to everyone else.”

Companies of many ilks have benefited spectacularly from relationships to cryptocurrencies, even tenuous ones. Long Island Iced Tea Corp., an unprofitable maker of the cold drink, changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp. in November. Shares in the New York-listed beverage company rose as much as 289 percent.

AIQ, incorporated in the Cayman Islands but with its main office in the Fitzrovia neighborhood of west London, raised about 4 million pounds ($5.5 million) through subscriptions of 50 million shares at 8 pence a share on Monday. Its meteoric rally since then gave it a market valuation of about 62.5 million pounds just before the suspension.

Publicly traded acquisition vehicles like AIQ are not uncommon in London. The rules on so-called cash shells were tightened back in 2015 following the saga of Gate Ventures Plc. Within just four months, China-based Gate had raised 3 million pounds, bought the U.K. rights to a musical called Being Woody Allen and promptly canceled its stock listing when its nominated adviser resigned.

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