Palantir—a data crunching firm best known for its ties to Peter Thiel, the Pentagon, and police forces across the country—is apparently looking to finally go public, as people “familiar with the matter” told Bloomberg yesterday. Earlier today, the plans were confirmed by finance execs at Akita Michinoku Capital, a group of Tokyo-based investing firm that has previously boasted ties with companies like Tencent and Softbank.
(Disclosure: Peter Thiel secretly funded a lawsuit that bankrupted Gizmodo’s former parent company, Gawker Media.)
Oliver Wright, Akita’s director of corporate equities, told Marketwatch that Palantir is aiming for a public filing by “late September,” though he left the door open for a potential shimmy on that date. He added that they’d be going with a direct listing—the kind of less-fussy public offering that Spotify and Slack chose when they each went on the market in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Direct listings come packaged with a few perks: they give Palantir’s current investors, who have poured $2.6 billion into funding the company thus far, a chance to sell their shares immediately, rather than waiting around for the dreaded stock lock-up period to expire. It also means that Palantir can sidestep working with the massive fees that typically come packaged with underwriters—consultants who would help sell Palantir’s securities to their own networks—along with any other financial middlemen that would want a cut of Palantir’s cash.
A listing of any kind will come with SEC disclosures though, which will force Palantir to pull back the curtain on its financials—something that it’s historically tried to sidestep since its founding in 2004. The company’s secretive contracts with the current administration—and its long-running and equally secretive ties to particular police surveillance projects—mean that the company’s been grappling with an image problem in more ways than one. Earlier this year, Palantir CEO Alex Karp openly admitted that his product has been used “to kill people.”
But even with backing from agencies including the CIA and FBI, the company’s struggled to break even. And because it’s made so much of its money off the backs of the federal sector, its stock prices have fluctuated wildly over the past few years. This year, however, the company moved onto slightly more solid ground: its corporate headcount has surged, and it’s scored some high-profile partnerships in the world of Oil and Big Pharma—industries that might be icky for all sorts of reasons, but make Palantir a much more palatable sell to a potential investor then, say, surveilling immigrants crossing the border.
As the Akita team explained, Palantir is looking to raise a good $961 million dollars before it prepares to go public—and it’s already over halfway there. Back in June, Palantir got juiced with $550 million dollars worth of investments from two separate Japanese financiers: $500 million from Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Holdings, and the remainder from the Tokyo-based IT giant Fujitsu.
Earlier this year, Thiel told investors that he’s expecting his company to reach a solid $1 billion dollars in revenue by the end of 2020. And when the company finally goes public, we might be able to see how much of that comes from the cops.