Palantir Technologies valued at $20b in choppy NYSE debut

Palantir Technologies Inc, the U.S. data analytics firm known for its work with the Central Intelligence Agency and other government agencies, was valued at $20.6 billion in a choppy New York Stock Exchange debut on Wednesday.

The listing ended years of speculation about when the company, co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel in 2003, would go public and how much it would be worth.

Palantir‘s shares closed at $9.50 apiece, below its $10 opening price though topping the weighted average price of $9.17 in the private markets in September as well as a reference price of $7.25 set by the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

Palantir decided in the middle of 2019 to go public, with an original timetable to complete the listing in the second half of 2021 but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated its plans, according to Chief Operating Officer Shyam Sankar.

“Broadly speaking COVID has been a tailwind for our business,” Sankar said in an interview. “We started 83 new engagements with customers in the first three weeks of COVID without getting on a plane,” Sankar added.

The listing pegs Palantir‘s valuation at roughly the same level as in a 2015 private fundraising round.

There has been considerable debate about whether investors will view it as a lucrative software provider or a less-glamorous consulting business. Denver-based Palantir went public at a time of strong investor demand for new stocks, particularly technology companies that promise rapid growth.

The company, led by CEO Alex Karp, has seen strong demand for its services, with revenue rising almost 50% to $481.2 million in the first six months of 2020 from the comparable period a year earlier.

However, Palantir has yet to turn a profit in its 17 years of existence, posting a net loss of $164.7 million in the same period, compared with a loss of $280.5 million a year earlier.

Direct route

Palantir opted to go public through a direct listing rather than a traditional initial public offering, meaning it did not raise any money but allowed its investors to sell more shares.

Only two major companies — workplace messaging platform Slack Technologies Inc in 2019 and music-streaming service Spotify Technology SA  in 2018 — have taken the direct listing route.

Workplace software maker Asana Inc also went public on Wednesday through a direct listing, and its shares opened up 29%. “Today further advanced the direct listing as an option for companies looking to access the public market,” said NYSE Vice Chairman and Chief Commercial Officer John Tuttle.

Nevertheless, Palantir closing below its opening price is a sign the first new investors will have lost money which would be a setback for the growth of direct listings, according Kathleen Smith, founding principal at Renaissance Capital, a research firm and manager of IPO-focused exchange-traded funds

“With direct listings, the appropriate starting price would be the opening trade,” Smith said. “For the direct listing to gain traction as a new structure, investors will have to make money,” she added.

Palantir analyzes large amounts of data for U.S. government defense and intelligence agencies, global banks and energy companies. As a public company, Palantir is expected to face intense scrutiny from investors and the media about its operations after years of being viewed as one of the most reclusive U.S. tech companies.

Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group AG and Goldman Sachs & Co were the lead banks advising Palantir on its listing.

Reuters

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.