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Well before China decided to kick out all of its bitcoin miners, they were already leaving in droves, and new data from Cambridge University shows they were likely headed to the United States.

The U.S. has fast become the new darling of the bitcoin mining world. It is the second-biggest mining destination on the planet, accounting for nearly 17% of all the world’s bitcoin miners as of April 2021. That’s a 151% increase from September 2020. 

“For the last 18 months, we’ve had a serious growth of mining infrastructure in the U.S.,” said Darin Feinstein, founder of Blockcap and Core Scientific. “We’ve noticed a massive uptick in mining operations looking to relocate to North America, mostly in the U.S.”

This dataset doesn’t include the mass mining exodus out of China, which led to half the world’s miners dropping offline, and experts tell CNBC that the U.S. share of the mining market is likely even bigger than the numbers indicate.

According to the newly-released Cambridge data, just before the Chinese mining ban began, the country accounted for 46% of the world’s total hashrate, an industry term used to describe the collective computing power of the bitcoin network. That’s a sharp decline from 75.5% in September 2019, and the percentage is likely much lower given the exodus underway now. 

“500,000 formerly Chinese miner rigs are looking for homes in the U.S,” said Marathon Digital’s Fred Thiel. “If they are deployed, it would mean North America would have closer to 40% of global hashrate by the end of 2022.”

The new mining mecca

America’s rising dominance is a simple case of luck meeting preparation. The U.S. has quietly been building up its hosting capacity for years.

Before bitcoin miners actually started coming to America, companies across the country made a gamble that eventually, if adequate infrastructure were in place, they would set up shop in the U.S. 

That gamble appears to be paying off.

When bitcoin crashed in late 2017 and the wider market entered a multi-year crypto winter, there wasn’t much demand for big bitcoin farms. U.S. mining operators saw their opening and jumped at the chance to deploy cheap money to build up the mining ecosystem in the States. 

“The large, publicly traded miners were able to raise capital to go make big purchases,” said Mike Colyer, CEO of digital currency company Foundry, which helped bring over $300 million of mining equipment into North America.

Companies like North American crypto mining operator Core Scientific kept building out hosting space all through the crypto winter, so that they had the capacity to plug in new gear, according to Colyer. 

“A majority of the new equipment manufactured from May 2020 through December 2020 was shipped to the U.S. and Canada,” he said.

Alex Brammer of Luxor Mining, a cryptocurrency pool built for advanced miners, points out that maturing capital markets and financial instruments around the mining industry also played a big role in the industry’s quick ascent in the U.S. Brammer says that many of these American operators were able to start rapidly expanding once they secured financing by leveraging a multi-year track record of profitability and existing capital as collateral.

Covid also played a role.

Though the global pandemic shut down large swaths of the economy, the ensuing stimulus payments that proved a boon for U.S. mining companies.

“All the money printing during the pandemic meant that more capital needed to be deployed,” explained bitcoin mining engineer Brandon Arvanaghi. 

“People were looking for places to park their cash. The appetite for large-scale investments had never been bigger. A lot of that likely found its way into bitcoin mining operations in places outside of China,” continued Arvanaghi.

Making it in America

The seeds of the U.S. migration started back in early 2020, according to Colyer. Prior to Beijing’s sudden crackdown, China’s mining dominance had already begun to slip. 

Part of the appeal is that the U.S. ticks a lot of the boxes for these migrant miners.

“If you’re looking to relocate hundreds of millions of dollars of miners out of China, you want to make sure you have geographic, political, and jurisdictional stability. You also want to make sure there are private property right protections for the assets that you are relocating,” said Feinstein.

It also helps that the U.S. is also home to some of the cheapest sources of energy on the planet, many of which tend to be renewable. Because miners at scale compete in a low-margin industry, where their only variable cost is typically energy, they are incentivized to migrate to the world’s cheapest sources of power.

Thiel expects most new miners relocating to North America to be powered by renewables, or gas that is offset by renewable energy credits.

While Castle Island Ventures founding partner, Nic Carter, points out that U.S. mining isn’t wholly renewable, he does say that miners here are much better about selecting renewables and buying offsets. 

“The migration is definitely a net positive overall,” he said. “Hashrate moving to the U.S., Canada, and Russia will mean much lower carbon intensity.”

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Nvidia briefly surpasses $2 trillion in market cap during intraday trading

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Nvidia briefly surpasses  trillion in market cap during intraday trading

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang speaks onstage during The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on Nov. 29, 2023.

Slaven Vlasic | Getty Images

Nvidia briefly surpassed $2 trillion in market cap during intraday trading Friday following the company’s rosy earnings report Wednesday — but it was short-lived.

After rising earlier in the day, shares of Nvidia were down about 1% at 11 a.m. ET. Nvidia stock closed up 16% Thursday.

Nvidia posted $22.10 billion in revenue for its fiscal fourth quarter, a 265% increase from a year ago and above the $20.62 billion expected by analysts polled by LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv. Nvidia reported $12.29 billion in net income during the quarter, up a staggering 769% from $1.41 billion last year.

The company has benefited from the tech sector’s insatiable demand for artificial intelligence capabilities over the past year. Nvidia makes the pricey graphics processors for the servers that power large AI models.

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Nvidia said it expects $24.0 billion in sales in the current quarter, surpassing the $22.17 billion expected by analysts.

“Fundamentally, the conditions are excellent for continued growth,” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said during the company’s quarterly call with investors Wednesday.

— CNBC’s Kif Leswing contributed to this report.

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AI can ‘disproportionately’ help defend against cybersecurity threats, Google CEO Sundar Pichai says

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AI can 'disproportionately' help defend against cybersecurity threats, Google CEO Sundar Pichai says

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks in conversation with Emily Chang during the APEC CEO Summit at Moscone West on November 16, 2023 in San Francisco, California. The APEC summit is being held in San Francisco and runs through November 17.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Munich, GERMANY — Rapid developments in artificial intelligence could help strengthen defenses against security threats in cyber space, according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Amid growing concerns about the potentially nefarious uses of AI, Pichai said that the intelligence tools could help governments and companies speed up the detection of — and response to — threats from hostile actors.

“We are right to be worried about the impact on cybersecurity. But AI, I think actually, counterintuitively, strengthens our defense on cybersecurity,” Pichai told delegates at Munich Security Conference at the end of last week.

Cybersecurity attacks have been growing in volume and sophistication as malicious actors increasingly use them as a way to exert power and extort money.

Cyberattacks cost the global economy an estimated $8 trillion in 2023 — a sum that is set to rise to $10.5 trillion by 2025, according to cyber research firm Cybersecurity Ventures.

A January report from Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre — part of GCHQ, the country’s intelligence agency — said that AI would only increase those threats, lowering the barriers to entry for cyber hackers and enabling more malicious cyber activity, including ransomware attacks.

“AI disproportionately helps the people defending because you’re getting a tool which can impact it at scale.

Sundar Pichai

CEO at Google

However, Pichai said that AI was also lowering the time needed for defenders to detect attacks and react against them. He said this would reduce what’s known as a the defenders’ dilemma, whereby cyberhackers have to be successful just once to a system whereas a defender has to be successful every time in order to protect it.

“AI disproportionately helps the people defending because you’re getting a tool which can impact it at scale versus the people who are trying to exploit,” he said.

“So, in some ways, we are winning the race,” he added.

Google last week announced a new initiative offering AI tools and infrastructure investments designed to boost online security. A free, open-source tool dubbed Magika aims to help users detect malware — malicious software — the company said in a statement, while a white paper proposes measures and research and creates guardrails around AI.

Pichai said the tools were already being put to use in the company’s products, such as Google Chrome and Gmail, as well as its internal systems.

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“AI is at a definitive crossroads — one where policymakers, security professionals and civil society have the chance to finally tilt the cybersecurity balance from attackers to cyber defenders. 

The release coincided with the signing of a pact by major companies at MSC to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent AI tools from being used to disrupt democratic votes in 2024’s bumper election year and beyond.

Adobe, Amazon, Google, IBM, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI, TikTok and X, formerly Twitter, were among the signatories to the new agreement, which includes a framework for how companies must respond to AI-generated “deepfakes” designed to deceive voters.

It comes as the internet becomes an increasingly important sphere of influence for both individuals and state-backed malicious actors.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday described cyberspace as “a new battlefield.”

“The technology arms race has just gone up another notch with generative AI,” she said in Munich.

“If you can run a little bit faster than your adversary, you’re going to do better. That’s what AI is really giving us defensively.

Mark Hughes

president of security at DXC

A report published last week by Microsoft found that state-backed hackers from Russia, China, and Iran have been using its OpenAI large language model (LLM) to enhance their efforts to trick targets.

Russian military intelligence, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and the Chinese and North Korean governments were all said to have relied on the tools.

Mark Hughes, president of security at IT services and consulting firm DXC, told CNBC that bad actors were increasingly relying on a ChatGPT-inspired hacking tool called WormGPT to conduct tasks like reverse engineering code.

However, he said that he was also seeing “significant gains” from similar tools which help engineers to detect and reserve engineer attacks at speed.

“It gives us the ability to speed up,” Hughes said last week. “Most of the time in cyber, what you have is the time that the attackers have in advantage against you. That’s often the case in any conflict situation.

“If you can run a little bit faster than your adversary, you’re going to do better. That’s what AI is really giving us defensively at the moment,” he added.

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Ride-hailing giant Grab posts first profitable quarter, announces $500 million share buyback

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Ride-hailing giant Grab posts first profitable quarter, announces 0 million share buyback

A attendee walks past a banner with a Grab logo before a bell-ringing ceremony as Grab begins trading on the Nasdaq, in Singapore, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

Ore Huiying | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Grab posted its first-ever profitable quarter, raking in $11 million in profit, the Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant said in its fourth-quarter earnings report Thursday.

This compares with a $391 million loss recorded in the same period a year ago. The boost was “primarily due to the improvement in Group adjusted EBITDA, fair value changes in investments, and lowered share-based compensation expenses,” the company said.

Revenue for the quarter hit $653 million, exceeding LSEG analysts’ estimates of $634.86 million.

Losses for full year 2023 came to $485 million, down 72% from $1.74 billion a year ago.

In addition to ride-hailing, the company also provides financial services like payments and insurance, as well as deliveries for food, groceries and packages.

“We exited [2023 with] mobility exceeding pre-Covid levels. We are seeing a very strong demand in the mobility space,” Grab CFO Peter Oey told CNBC in an exclusive interview on Friday, adding that tourism is “growing very much.”

“If you look at the deliveries business, we have another record 13% year-over-year growth. We have now more users on our platform also at the same time. So we have really strong momentum,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

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Grab announced Thursday it would be repurchasing up to $500 million worth of class A ordinary shares for the first time.

Grab was largely unprofitable during its years of operation, having amassed billions of dollars in losses since its inception in 2012.

In the initial years of business, tech startups tend to prioritize growth over profitability, which usually means burning a lot of cash. But with global macro uncertainties slowing growth, they have been forced to renew their focus on profitability and be more prudent with costs.

During the fourth quarter, total incentives — which include partner and consumer incentives — were further reduced to 7.3% of total value of goods sold, Grab said in its report. That’s compared to 8.2% in the same period a year ago “as we continued to improve the health of our marketplace.”

Grab had been doling out incentives to attract drivers and passengers to its platform but that’s tapering now as the company moves to drive up profitability.

On whether Grab would reach a time where it wouldn’t need to incentivize people to stay on the platform, Oey said incentives will “always be a lever” for the business.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a world where there’s no incentive whatsoever,” he told CNBC, adding that incentives help “to make sure we have enough supply” of drivers and attract price-sensitive customers.

For 2024, Grab expects revenue to come in between $2.70 billion and $2.75 billion, lower than LSEG analysts’ consensus of $2.8 billion.

Grab’s shares closed 8.41% lower on Thursday. Its share price has plummeted 75.8% from its $13.06 opening price in December 2021, when the firm first listed on the Nasdaq.

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