NEW YORK - ProShares, a provider of bitcoin-linked exchange traded funds (ETF), announced on Monday it plans to launch on Tuesday an ETF aimed at shorting the world's largest cryptocurrency.

Called the ProShares Short Bitcoin Strategy ETF (NYSE Ticker: BITI), the fund will provide a way for investors to potentially profit from a decline in the price of bitcoin or hedge their cryptocurrency exposure with an ETF, the company said in a statement. It is further intended to address the challenge of acquiring short exposure to bitcoin, which can be onerous and expensive for many investors.

"As recent times have shown, bitcoin can drop in value," said ProShares CEO Michael Sapir, in a statement. "BITI enables investors to conveniently obtain short exposure to bitcoin through buying an ETF in a traditional brokerage account."

For investors who prefer a mutual fund, ProFunds, the affiliated mutual fund company of ProShares, plans to launch Short Bitcoin Strategy ProFund (BITIX) on Tuesday. The BITIX mutual fund will have the same investment objective as BITI.

In October last year, ProShares launched the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF, the first U.S. bitcoin-linked ETF, attracting more than $1 billion in assets from the public in two days.

The crypto market, however, is currently in a free fall, with bitcoin leading the way.

Bitcoin, dropped on Saturday to as low as $17,592.78, falling below the key $20,000 level for the first time since December 2020. On Monday, it hit a session low of $19,616.10 and was last down 2.2% at $20,112.

Since the beginning of the year, bitcoin has lost 59% of its value against the U.S. dollar.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)