The price of XRP — the native cryptocurrency of the XRP Ledger — entered May at US$1.57 and is up over 600% since the start of 2021, even as Ripple Labs released one billion XRP this weekend from its escrow wallet.

Two batches of 500 million XRP, valued at a total of US$1.59 billion, were unlocked from Ripple’s escrow wallet on May 1, according to Whale Alert, a service that tracks large value cryptocurrency transactions. 

While some Twitter users immediately feared that a “dump” was imminent and XRP prices would fall given the additional supply of XRP that was being put into circulation, other users pointed out that the transactions were part of Ripple’s monthly XRP escrow release and would be subsequently relocked.

How Ripple’s XRP escrow works

The release of one billion XRP each month is not new. Ripple has locked 55 billion XRP, or 55% of the total possible supply, into a series of escrows that release one billion XRP every month, according to a Ripple blog post from 2017. These escrows are on the ledger itself and the ledger mechanics, enforced by consensus, control the release of the XRP. 

The XRP escrow is designed to provide predictability to the XRP supply by maintaining an upper limit on the amount of new XRP that can be released for circulation. The actual amount of XRP released into circulation is usually less than one billion XRP and the leftover XRP each month is placed into a new escrow. 

Since January 2018, one billion XRP has been released each month. In 41 months, Ripple has released 41 billion XRP, of which 33.7 billion was returned into escrow, and 822 million on average has been re-escrowed every month, according to XRParcade.

This month, 100 million XRP was transferred to Ripple and 900 million XRP was returned to escrow, according to Whale Alert. 

Impact of Ripple’s XRP’s escrow release on XRP price

XRP prices, currently at about US$1.60, have been relatively stable, within the 24-hour trading range of US$$1.54 to US$1.62 as of publishing time. XRP prices surged by almost 200% in April from US$0.55 at the start of the month to US$1.63 on April 30. XRP is currently the fourth largest cryptocurrency in the world with a total market value of about US$74 billion, which is about 3% of the total cryptocurrency market value.

The price of XRP, which was the third-largest cryptocurrency in the world by market value, initially plummeted by more than 60% after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in December 2020 filed a lawsuit against Ripple — which in turn caused U.S. cryptocurrency exchanges to delist the XRP token. XRP holders have since filed a motion to intervene in the SEC v. Ripple lawsuit as a third-party defendant in a bid to protect their interests. The lawsuit is currently in its discovery phase, with each side trying to obtain more information from the other side and limit what information must be shared. 

XRP prices rallied on Friday following a discovery hearing regarding the SEC’s use of formal requests to foreign regulators to obtain information on Ripple and XRP concluded with the judge saying she needed more time to make a ruling. 

The SEC’s lawsuit against Ripple is being closely watched by the XRP community and the cryptocurrency industry not only because of its potential impact on XRP investors, but also the legal precedent it could set for other cryptocurrencies. 

See related article: SEC seeks to knock out Ripple defense, says no duty to warn over XRP

But despite its legal troubles in the U.S., XRP has remained popular in parts of Asia, such as in Japan, and elsewhere outside the U.S.

SBI Holdings — a Tokyo-based financial services group that has a joint venture SBI Ripple Asia with Ripple — will be giving shareholders who have held for more than a year, 1,000 or more shares or 100 shares or more shares, the equivalent of JPY8,000 and JPY2,000 in XRP respectively, according to the company’s financial report on its fiscal year that recently ended. SBI, which started its security token business with Boostry in May last year, will also be allocating XRP to investors who purchase its first security token offering launched on April 19. 

Ripple has also been trying to expand its presence in the Asia Pacific payments market through acquisitions and partnerships, most recently with Novatti, a digital banking and payments company that is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. 

See related article: Ripple partners with Novatti to use XRP for remittances in Asia Pacific

Despite being delisted by U.S. cryptocurrency exchanges, XRP remains available on the Zurich-based SIX Swiss Exchange, Switzerland’s principal stock exchange and Europe’s third largest as an exchange traded product issued by CoinShares, Europe’s largest digital asset investment firm.

See related article: Europe’s CoinShares launches XRP exchange traded product