Palantir Technologies Inc., the data-mining company backed by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, broke years of suspense by filing to go public through a direct listing.
The Denver-based company applied to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker PLTR, according to its filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Palantir won’t raise any proceeds in the listing and doesn’t have traditional underwriters. Unlike previous direct listings, investors will face restrictions on how much of their shares they can sell initially.
Palantir’s founders will control about half of the total voting power, the filing says. The company currently has two classes of shares and plans to add a third class that carries a variable number of votes. All shares of this new class will be held by a voting trust established by co-founders Alexander Karp, Stephen Cohen and Thiel.
The company lost US$580 million in 2019, but that loss narrowed in the first half of this year to US$165 million. Revenue in the first half of the year climbed 49 per cent from the previous year to hit US$481 million.
Palantir’s filing comes after Asana Inc., a workplace management software company, filed Monday for its own direct listing. The economic downturn caused by the global coronavirus pandemic has led some companies to rethink their capital needs. Airbnb Inc., which was previously seen as a candidate for a direct listing, said this month that it filed for a traditional initial public offering.
Facebook Inc. board member Thiel co-founded Palantir in 2003, quickly winning the attention and financial backing of In-Q-Tel, the venture investing arm of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Named for the all-seeing stones used in the fictional J.R.R. Tolkien “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the company counted the CIA among its first customers, and cultivated an early reputation for secrecy.
Palantir’s technology allows users who own data, or have access to it, to aggregate it into a central repository that’s easy to search. U.S. government agencies including the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service are customers, as are government agencies in Denmark, the U.K. and a dozen other countries.
For years, the company’s engineers performed extensive data integrations and customizations of its technology at customer sites. This one-off approach kept Palantir private long after many of its peers had gone public, because the company didn’t want to risk getting valued as a consultancy.
A few years ago, Palantir built Foundry, software that automates once-manual work and laid the groundwork for Palantir to increase its corporate sales and start its first ever sales team. Some 98 per cent of Palantir clients now use Foundry, according to information shared with investors this year.