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Bitcoin halving: what will the planned reduction in emissions from the queen of cryptos change?

The famous halving which will affect the queen of cryptocurrencies should take place this Friday, April 19.

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Bitcoin halving: what will the planned reduction in emissions from the queen of cryptos change?

The famous halving which will affect the queen of cryptocurrencies should take place this Friday, April 19. An event that occurs approximately every four years, and which will be the fourth in history since the creation of bitcoin in 2009 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Operation, usefulness, impact on the value of cryptocurrency... Le Figaro takes stock of the questions posed by this halving.

From its creation, bitcoin was designed with a limit: unlike classic money which can be issued infinitely by central banks, only 21 million units of the cryptocurrency will ultimately be issued, and not one of more. Already 19 million bitcoins are in circulation, so there are less than two million left to mine. To avoid reaching this limit too quickly, the number of bitcoins created is halved for every 210,000 blocks mined on the blockchain: this is the halving, which occurs approximately every four years, at the rate of one block mined every ten minutes on average.

Concretely, the bitcoin infrastructure needs computing power, and individuals and companies called “miners” provide it, using powerful machines. To reward miners, the system creates new bitcoins, which it distributes to whoever validated a “block” of data, containing the last transactions carried out. In order to choose the user who will have this validation privilege, a computer puzzle is posed. The machine solving it obtains the right to validate the block and therefore receive the bitcoins as a reward. Many miners, to maximize their chances, operate in a cooperative, or “pool,” and share the winnings.

“The creation of a bictoin will become more and more complicated,” explains Stanislas Barthelemi, expert at KPMG. Concretely, miners who run the algorithm to solve equations obtain bitcoins as a reward for each block mined. Originally, in 2009, they received 50 per block. Over the course of the halvings, this reward dropped to 6.25 BTC per block. After this new halving in 2024, they will only receive 3,125 BTC per mined block. “There is an element of arbitrariness regarding the choice of periodicity and the division by two,” points out the expert. But the rule was defined like that so we stick to it.” At the current rate, the limit should only be reached in 2040.

The exact time of the halving is not known in advance: it will occur when 210,000 blocks have been mined since the last halving of 2020, i.e. during the day of April 19. “A block is mined every ten minutes on average, but there could be a few more miners present as the deadline approaches,” underlines Stanislas Barthelemi. No manipulation will have to be carried out: everything is automatic and integrated into the blockchain code since the origin of bitcoin. The first to mine a block after passing the halving threshold will simply receive half as many bitcoins as the person who mined the previous block.

For the holder, the operation is “totally invisible”, reassures Stanislas Barthelemi, who does not expect an impact on the price of bitcoin, at nearly 60,000 euros on the eve of this halving. “There is no surprise: it’s not as if a central bank changed its rate overnight, it’s been planned from the start.” In a perfectly rational market, this “halving” should therefore surprise no one and be already integrated into prices. Nevertheless, empirically, progressive but clear increases were observed before and after the previous halving episodes, in 2012, 2016 and 2020. After the 2020 episode, the price of bitcoin was thus multiplied by almost eight, passing from around $9,000 upstream to a peak of $69,000 in November 2021.

This time, the price of bitcoin jumped ahead of the event. The digital token, whose price is highly volatile, reached an all-time high of $73,797.98 in March. Other factors contributed to this jump, starting with the launch on the American markets of a new investment product which follows the price of bitcoin.

On the other hand, all those who make up the hidden side of bitcoin will be affected by this halving, “all the companies which have invested heavily to run the machines and maintain the system”, specifies the expert. They will see their income decrease, without being taken by surprise. “It's a drop in the reward that helps secure the infrastructure,” but this loss of income is supposed to be offset by those from bitcoin sales. “The halving is a media and symbolic step in the community, but it’s business as usual!”

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