Palantir files for stock market listing

Palantir has filed for a stock market listing, setting in motion the long-awaited flotation of the data analytics company known for its closely guarded work with government agencies.

The company, co-founded by technology entrepreneur Peter Thiel, said on Monday it had submitted a confidential draft registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The company did not specify details of the proposed transaction.

Palantir’s announcement indicated it could opt for a direct listing, in which no new shares are sold, as opposed to a traditional initial public offering. The company declined to comment.

Investors valued Palantir at $20bn in 2015, though its shares have since traded below that level in private secondary markets. Several mutual funds have also marked down their stakes in the company.

Palantir’s work for US intelligence and national security services — and Mr Thiel’s early support for the Trump campaign — has made it one of Silicon Valley’s most controversial data analytics companies.

The company was formed in 2004 and made a name for itself with early work helping to profile terrorists in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks, prompting complaints from civil liberties campaigners. More recently, it been criticised for its work with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or Ice, which has helped to implement the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Last year Palantir was dropped at the last minute as a sponsor at a prominent international conference of privacy experts at the University of California, Berkeley, after attendees threatened a boycott because of its work with Ice.

The company’s willingness to work on controversial national security issues has long made it stand out in comparison to the broadly liberal nature of much of the US tech industry. But the antipathy erupted after Mr Thiel appeared at the 2016 Republican party convention to back Donald Trump, making him the most prominent Silicon Valley figure to come out in support of the president.

Palantir’s planned listing, more than 15 years after it was founded, makes it one of the oldest Silicon Valley start-ups to seek a presence on the stock market.

The listing would be one of this year’s largest and comes as other Silicon Valley groups look to take advantage of buoyant public markets.

Alex Karp, Palantir’s chief executive, had long resisted an IPO, keeping the company’s work for government agencies and other sensitive clients away from public scrutiny. In June, the company added three directors to its tightly controlled board, including the former Wall Street Journal writer Alexandra Wolfe Schiff.

Palantir’s long road to the stock market partly reflects the struggles it has had to turn its core technology — a data integration tool that customers use to pull together information previously held in different “silos” — into a sustainable business.

Much of its work has involved embedding its employees in customers’ offices to handle the integration work, making its business model in some ways closer to that of a services company than the kind of pure software business Wall Street investors value most highly.

Palantir’s data integration platform has frequently been adopted to help handle the response to disasters, such as the coronavirus pandemic. It was taken up this year by national authorities in both the US and the UK as they struggled to get a fuller understanding of the spread of the virus and the medical resources available to fight it.

The company, which has been slow to turn a profit, projected it would reach more than $1bn in revenues this year.

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