This article originally appeared on Simply Wall St News.
Palantir Technologies Inc . ( NYSE:PLTR ) has become a market favorite amongst retail investors, while institutional investors remain more cautious. This could lead to some big price moves if either group is proved right or wrong on the company.
Palantir currently has a market capitalization of $52 billion. Typically, institutional investors will account for most of the shareholding of a company of this size. In Palantir’s case, retail investors own 60.2% of the company’s shares, while institutions own just 23.9% of the shares.
Institutions often take a longer-term view when they invest in a company, and they are less likely to react to short term volatility and news. Stock prices often perform well when the percentage of shares owned by institutions increases gradually over time. So, it would be a positive development if institutions turn bullish on the stock, and their share of ownership increases.
Retail investors tend to react more to volatility and news. If the outlook worsens, a large stake in the hands of retail investors can amplify the effect on the share price.
View our latest analysis for Palantir Technologies
Palantir is not currently owned by hedge funds in a significant way. On the other hand, the short float (the percentage of the company’s shares that have been sold short) is quite low, so it doesn't appear that hedge funds are betting against the company either.
Ownership by company insiders is also a promising sign for companies as it means the company’s leaders have ‘skin in the game’. In Palantir’s case, its top key executive, Peter Thiel, is the largest shareholder, holding 7.1% of shares outstanding. In comparison, the second and third largest shareholders hold about 5.5% and 5.0% of the stock. Furthermore, CEO Alexander Karp is the owner of 2.1% of the company's shares.
There has been some insider selling over the last 12 months, but these sales have not represented a meaningful percentage of insider ownership. You can click here to see if those insiders have been buying or selling.
A deeper look at our ownership data shows that the top 25 shareholders collectively hold less than half of the register, suggesting a large group of minority holders where no single shareholder has a majority.
What does the Ownership Structure of Palantir Technologies Tell Us?
Clearly, retail investors are more optimistic than institutional investors when it comes to Palantir. Meanwhile, Wall Street analysts have a more neutral view. As you can see from the forecasts below, they expect revenue to rise steadily, while earnings are expected to remain in negative territory for the foreseeable future. Cash flows are expected to be positive, and Palantir has plenty of cash on hand , so the company is in a good position.
Our estimate of the stock’s value implies it is trading at a 26% premium - but that estimate would be very sensitive to changes in forecasts, which are also likely to change.
Until recently Palantir has provided services to government agencies rather than the private sector. This is now changing, and future growth is expected to come from the private sector. Just how successful the company will be in the private sector is difficult to quantify. Palantir has also made some rather unusual investments recently, including gold bars and several SPACs and privately owned companies.
All of this makes the company’s outlook a bit of an unknown. This may explain the divergent views. It seems retail investors believe in the company’s unconventional strategy and its management team, while analysts and institutions are looking for more tangible evidence that the company can deliver.
What this means for the share price
At some point, either institutions or retail investors will be proven right on the stock. This will probably require some kind of catalyst, either in the form of a quarterly earnings release, or news about new customers. The large stake in the hands of retail investors is a risk for the share price, but not a bearish indicator on its own. On the other hand, if institutions warm to the stock and increase their ownsership, it would create a very bullish dynamic.
Ultimately the future is most important . You can access this free report on analyst forecasts for the company .
NB: Figures in this article are calculated using data from the last twelve months, which refer to the 12-month period ending on the last date of the month the financial statement is dated. This may not be consistent with full year annual report figures.
Simply Wall St analyst Richard Bowman and Simply Wall St have no position in any of the companies mentioned. This article is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email [email protected]
If you want to know who really controls Palantir Technologies Inc. (NYSE:PLTR), then you'll have to look at the makeup of its share registry. Insiders often own a large chunk of younger, smaller, companies while huge companies tend to have institutions as shareholders. I quite like to see at least a little bit of insider ownership. As Charlie Munger said 'Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome.
With a market capitalization of US$54b, Palantir Technologies is rather large. We'd expect to see institutional investors on the register. Companies of this size are usually well known to retail investors, too. Our analysis of the ownership of the company, below, shows that institutions are noticeable on the share registry. We can zoom in on the different ownership groups, to learn more about Palantir Technologies.
View our latest analysis for Palantir Technologies
What Does The Institutional Ownership Tell Us About Palantir Technologies?
Institutions typically measure themselves against a benchmark when reporting to their own investors, so they often become more enthusiastic about a stock once it's included in a major index. We would expect most companies to have some institutions on the register, especially if they are growing.
We can see that Palantir Technologies does have institutional investors; and they hold a good portion of the company's stock. This suggests some credibility amongst professional investors. But we can't rely on that fact alone since institutions make bad investments sometimes, just like everyone does. It is not uncommon to see a big share price drop if two large institutional investors try to sell out of a stock at the same time. So it is worth checking the past earnings trajectory of Palantir Technologies, (below). Of course, keep in mind that there are other factors to consider, too.
Hedge funds don't have many shares in Palantir Technologies. Because actions speak louder than words, we consider it a good sign when insiders own a significant stake in a company. In Palantir Technologies' case, its Top Key Executive, Peter Thiel, is the largest shareholder, holding 7.3% of shares outstanding. In comparison, the second and third largest shareholders hold about 6.4% and 6.2% of the stock. Additionally, the company's CEO Alexander Karp directly holds 1.2% of the total shares outstanding.
On studying our ownership data, we found that 25 of the top shareholders collectively own less than 50% of the share register, implying that no single individual has a majority interest.
Researching institutional ownership is a good way to gauge and filter a stock's expected performance. The same can be achieved by studying analyst sentiments. There are plenty of analysts covering the stock, so it might be worth seeing what they are forecasting, too.
Insider Ownership Of Palantir Technologies
The definition of an insider can differ slightly between different countries, but members of the board of directors always count. Company management run the business, but the CEO will answer to the board, even if he or she is a member of it.
I generally consider insider ownership to be a good thing. However, on some occasions it makes it more difficult for other shareholders to hold the board accountable for decisions.
It seems insiders own a significant proportion of Palantir Technologies Inc.. Insiders own US$5.7b worth of shares in the US$54b company. That's quite meaningful. Most would be pleased to see the board is investing alongside them. You may wish to access this free chart showing recent trading by insiders.
General Public Ownership
The general public, mostly retail investors, hold a substantial 60% stake in Palantir Technologies, suggesting it is a fairly popular stock. With this size of ownership, retail investors can collectively play a role in decisions that affect shareholder returns, such as dividend policies and the appointment of directors. They can also exercise the power to decline an acquisition or merger that may not improve profitability.
Private Equity Ownership
With an ownership of 6.4%, private equity firms are in a position to play a role in shaping corporate strategy with a focus on value creation. Sometimes we see private equity stick around for the long term, but generally speaking they have a shorter investment horizon and -- as the name suggests -- don't invest in public companies much. After some time they may look to sell and redeploy capital elsewhere.
Public Company Ownership
We can see that public companies hold 6.2% of the Palantir Technologies shares on issue. This may be a strategic interest and the two companies may have related business interests. It could be that they have de-merged. This holding is probably worth investigating further.
I find it very interesting to look at who exactly owns a company. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 3 warning signs with Palantir Technologies , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
Ultimately the future is most important. You can access this freereport on analyst forecasts for the company.
NB: Figures in this article are calculated using data from the last twelve months, which refer to the 12-month period ending on the last date of the month the financial statement is dated. This may not be consistent with full year annual report figures.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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Peter Thiel's Palantir is skyrocketing as Trump's prospects grow dim
Because of Thiel's ties to Trump and Palantir's large government contracts, some investors may have viewed the the company as better off under Trump than a Democratic administration. However, Mark Cash, an equity analyst at Morningstar, said investors are getting more comfortable with the company's story and aren't worried about any disruption based on a change in the White House.
Cash didn't have a good explanation for the stock's dramatic move up, but said that he's optimistic about the company's upcoming third-quarter earnings report scheduled for next week.
"The administration doesn't matter to their valuation or their market opportunity," said Cash, who has a $13 price target on the stock. "They've been through both sides, Democrat and Republican. They're not new to this, just newly public."
Just before Palantir's market debut, the Defense Department said it awarded the company a $91.2 million contract to provide research and development to the Army Research Laboratory over the next two years. Palantir has been growing by continuing to get big government deals while also building up its roster of private sector clients.
Cash said the company has a "nice pipeline of contracts," including business with customers using its data tools for Covid 19 response, whether in public health or to route medical supplies.
He also said that Palantir could be in position to win business even in an administration that's pulling back on defense spending, because the company has been moving deeper into software and away from consulting, making its products more efficient.
"If a deflationary spending environment for defense happens, it can be to their benefit," Cash said. "Agencies probably can't take on these expensive multi-year consulting efforts but instead would look to use off-the-shelf solutions that are already made."
WATCH: Palantir's potential customer base is a fundamental issue
Owns palantir who
Palantir CEO Alex Karp earned cash and stock worth $1.1 billion last year
Palantir CEO Alex Karp earned compensation worth about $1.1 billion in 2020, primarily through equity awards granted shortly before his software company went public.
In a proxy filing on Thursday, Palantir said the bulk of Karp's pay was tied to options worth $797.9 million, with another $296.4 million for stock awards. The outsized package is the result of an equity incentive plan agreed upon last year, giving Karp 141 million options that begin vesting in August 2021. Each quarter, 2.5 percent of the equity will vest.
Karp's 2020 pay was up from $12 million a year earlier. In addition to stock awards, he earned a salary of $1.1 million, and other compensation, including tax advice, personal security and use of chartered aircraft, totaling $3.1 million.
Karp, 53, co-founded Palantir in 2003 along with Peter Thiel and others to provide data analytics tools and services to the intelligence community. The company expanded while offering little visibility into its business, until going public via direct listing in September at a valuation of over $15 billion. After debuting at $9.50 a share, the stock soared past $35 in January, before dropping over the next few months. It closed on Thursday at $23.37.
While Palantir was for most of its life based in Palo Alto, California, Karp made a point in the prospectus of ripping Silicon Valley for producing businesses that sell our "thoughts and inclinations, behaviors and browsing habits." Around the same time, the company announced plans to move its headquarters from Palo Alto to Colorado, a state that has significantly lower income taxes.
At the time of the New York Stock Exchange listing, Karp owned about $1 billion worth of Palantir stock. He's since sold about $350 million worth at share prices ranging from $9.10 to $31.59, according to SEC filings.
Stephen Cohen, Palantir's president, saw the value of his compensation jump from $16 million in 2019 to $192 million last year due to equity awards granted in August. Chief Operating Officer Shyam Sankar received total compensation worth $102 million in 2020, up from $26 million the prior year.
For all three top executives, the earn out will come over time. Options for Cohen and Sankar vest at 5% a quarter starting in August. Palantir said that the values ascribed to the 2020 awards are based on rules of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.
"These amounts do not necessarily correspond to the actual value recognized or that may be recognized by the executive officers," the filing said.
A Palantir representative declined to comment.
WATCH:Palantir CEO in this for the long haul
In the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the country’s public health departments, still reliant on fax machines, were woefully unprepared for the massive amounts of data they needed to process. Looking for a tidy private-sector solution to a messy government problem, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) paid a shadowy Silicon Valley company with ties to the Trump administration to build something new. That company is called Palantir Technologies, and if you don’t know much about it, that’s by design.
A lot of that could change in the coming months, however: Palantir is about to go public.
Palantir specializes in data-gathering and analysis, most of which it does for government agencies. It has about $1.5 billion in federal government contracts alone, including, recently, with the Space Force and the Navy. In July, with new Covid-19 case numbers breaking records daily, the HHS announced an abrupt shift in how that data would be reported: hospitals would now report their data exclusively to HHS Protect, a new platform Palantir developed that would be run by another private company called TeleTracking. This would effectively replace the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Healthcare Safety Network, per the Trump administration’s orders to hospitals to stop reporting their information to it. HHS Protect, which was not accessible to the general public, was now the only source for this information.
“Today, the CDC still has at least a week lag in reporting hospital data,” Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of the HHS for public affairs, told the New York Times then. “America requires it in real time. The new, faster, and complete data system is what our nation needs to defeat the coronavirus.”
A month later, however, the order to bypass the CDC was reversed as public outcry along with complaints from state attorneys general, members of Congress, and health workers mounted against it. HHS Protect also unveiled a public data hub for the information, though this has been plagued by reports that the data is incomplete, inaccurate, and more delayed than the CDC’s ever was.
Palantir, the architect of this complete data system, isn’t a household name like its Palo Alto peers, but the 17-year-old company founded by Peter Thiel is one of the most valuable private companies in Silicon Valley. That anonymity is a feature, not a bug: Palantir does most of its work for the government, including national security and intelligence operations. Its recently released financial documents say the company hopes to extend that reach even further, taking advantage of the Trump administration’s push to use commercial products rather than build its own to “become the default operating system for data across the US government.”
In recent years, headlines about the company have stressed its access to everything about all of us, which privacy advocates have long criticized. Palantir’s data-mining software has been credited with killing Osama bin Laden (a claim that has never been confirmed) and blamed for tearing unauthorized immigrant families apart.
As the notoriously secretive surveillance startup that the White House is entrusting with the nation’s coronavirus data is about to go public, some details of how the company works and its Trump administration-inspired vision are, too.
The Lord of the Rings-based solution to 9/11
Palantir was founded in 2003 by venture capitalist and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel along with Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, Nathan Gettings, and Alex Karp, its eccentric CEO who has a law degree and a PhD in neoclassical social theory and keeps 20 identical pairs of swimming goggles in his office. The company’s name comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “palantíri,” which are magical orbs that let their possessors see anything happening in the world at any time. The name fits, too, as Palantir’s vision has always been to create software that can mine and analyze large and disparate data sets, putting them all in one place and finding connections between them.
The company came together not long after 9/11, when Palantir was pitched as a tool that could have identified and stopped the hijackers and would prevent similar attacks from happening in the future. Sure enough, by 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek was calling Palantir “an indispensable tool employed by the US intelligence community in the war on terrorism.” The magazine added, “Palantir technology essentially solves the Sept. 11 intelligence problem.”
Indeed, the CIA was one of Palantir’s earliest investors through its venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel (yes, the CIA has a venture capital arm). It was Palantir’s only customer for years as the company refined and improved its technology, according to Forbes. By 2010, Palantir’s customers were mostly government agencies, though there were some private companies in the mix. Having managed to quietly work its way toward a $1 billion valuation, it was then one of the most valuable startups in Silicon Valley. By 2015, Palantir was valued at $20 billion.
“I think it’s worth keeping in mind that Palantir sees itself not alongside Uber, Twitter, and Netflix, but alongside Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Booz Allen,” said the Intercept’s Sam Biddle, who has covered Palantir for years. “Palantir wants to be a defense contractor, not a Silicon Valley unicorn.”
Palantir has grown into a company with roughly 2,400 employees, most of them engineers who write the software that collects data, and embedded analysts who work on site with Palantir’s customers to make sense of it. Company culture has been described as cult-like, big on T-shirts and Care Bears, and “more Google than Lockheed.” Employees are called “Palantirians.”
One of Palantir’s product demonstrations, as described in Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2011 article, presents a fictional example of the software’s capabilities: A terrorist leaves a trail of data across Florida, including one-way plane tickets, condo rentals, bank withdrawals, phone calls to Syria, and security camera footage from Walt Disney World. Taken separately, these details don’t add up to much, but Palantir’s software ties together thousands of databases across various agencies and helps clients see connections across them. In this case, actions that are innocuous on their own are much more suspicious when combined, and the CIA could identify and stop a terrorist’s plan to attack a theme park.
Again, that was a hypothetical product demonstration, but Palantir’s technology has been credited with saving its financial institution customers hundreds of millions of dollars, being used to detect Chinese spyware on the Dalai Lama’s computer, thwarting Pakistani suicide bombers, and unraveling Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Its customers have included the CDC, police departments in America and abroad, and large corporations like JPMorgan and Home Depot. Palantir even sued the US Army in 2016 to force it to consider using its intelligence software after the Army chose to go with its own. Palantir won the suit, and then it won an $800 million contract.
Despite its high valuation and lucrative contracts, however, Palantir’s financial documents show the company has never made a profit, with a net loss of about $580 million in 2018 and 2019 and nearly $165 million in the first half of 2020. Those numbers are trending in the right direction, though the company admitted in the filing, “[W]e expect our operating expenses to increase, and we may not become profitable in the future” and “we may not be able to sustain our revenue growth rate in the future.”
“A monstrous government snoop”
Palantir’s work, the government agencies that contract it, and the relative lack of details about the company’s inner workings mean it’s often seen as secretive, all-knowing, and even malevolent. Seven years after touting Palantir’s terrorism-fighting abilities, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a feature on the company with the headline “Palantir Knows Everything About You.” In a book with the phrase “destroying democracy” in the title, Robert Scheer called Palantir a “monstrous government snoop, mining our most intimate data.” The company’s software has been criticized for its dragnet ways, pulling in records about millions of innocent people so it can catch a few possible criminals.
“Palantir’s data-mining software is used to analyze vast amounts of personal data held by the federal government to make determinations that affect people’s lives with little to no oversight,” said Jeramie D. Scott, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which successfully sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to get records on its work with Palantir. “Palantir analyzes databases containing telephone numbers, email addresses, financial data, call transaction records, and social media information. ... The documents EPIC obtained showed that ICE’s Palantir-based databases could analyze call records and GPS data as well as conduct social network analysis of the information linking different individuals.”
The company suffered one of its first rounds of bad press in 2011 when a hacker discovered it was part of a proposal to Bank of America to sabotage Wikileaks. In response, Palantir issued a public apology, created a “Council of Advisors on Privacy and Civil Liberties,” and suspended — but did not fire — the engineer responsible.
The post-9/11 world that Palantir was born into in 2003 then changed considerably in 2013 when leaks from Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency used the directive of protecting the country at all costs in order to mass-collect the phone records of millions of Americans, leading to widespread outcry and some reforms. Palantir denied working with the NSA on that particular project but has worked with the agency on others, according to an internal video that was leaked to BuzzFeed News.
Palantir’s work with various police departments across the country has also brought renewed scrutiny to the company, especially in light of recent protests against police brutality. Palantir’s software powers the Los Angeles Police Department’s predictive crime program, called Operation LASER, which tries to identify and target potential criminals for increased surveillance. The program ended in 2019 amid doubts that predictive policing was an effective crime deterrent, as well as criticism from civil rights organizations that it unfairly targeted minority communities. It’s hard to get exact numbers on how many police departments Palantir has contracts with, but New Orleans’s and New York’s police departments are known customers, and Palantir boasts on its website of its work with the Salt Lake City Police Department.
Palantir declined Recode’s request for comment, but the company has said its technology is built with protections for privacy and civil liberties. While the company’s software obviously collects and works with data for its clients, the company says it doesn’t collect or use any of that data for itself.
Palantir’s less-than-great public image has come with some consequences. In the past few years, nonprofits have dropped Palantir as a corporate sponsor, and students regularlyprotest Palantir-related campus events and recruiting sessions. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Karp noted that a “small group” of protesters regularly assembles outside Palantir’s offices, and he’s said that his own home is the site of near-daily protests. He has a personal security guard at all times. The Investor Alliance for Human Rights criticized Palantir’s work with the government and ICE, saying it was “failing to fulfill its human rights responsibilities” and noting that its use of personal data came with “legal risks” and could be in violation of state laws.
That reputation has followed Palantir even as its technology seems to be doing some good during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company is providing its services at almost no cost to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), but headlines focused on how much patient data the company was getting access to in order to do that work and what it would do with it. The NHS has also provided patient data to other companies, including Microsoft and Amazon.
Stateside, there’s HHS Protect — another example of Palantir’s expansion into how the government collects and manages data and whom it trusts to do it (and, it seems, whom it does not). A spokesperson for HHS told NBC News in June that ICE would not have access to HHS Protect and that all information in it was de-identified anyway. But some politicians have still expressed their concerns about if and how patients’ personal health information will be protected, and that it won’t be shared with other federal agencies. They’ve specifically cited Palantir’s work on the project as one of their issues.
“Our concerns that HHS Protect could be misused in this way are compounded by the fact that Palantir has a history of contracting with ICE, including two active awards worth over $38 million in total,” they said in a June letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Palantir admitted in its filing that negative coverage — which it said was often inaccurate and misleading — and the resulting public perception of its services could damage its relationships with current customers, dissuade potential new customers, and upset both investors and employees.
“Palantir is complicit in the surveillance, arrest and deportation of our communities through their work with ICE,” Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign director at Mijente, an advocacy hub that has railed against Palantir and its ICE contracts for years, said in a statement to Recode. “Their S-1 recognizes that these are risky contracts to take on. We’re calling on investors everywhere not to invest when the IPO happens. An investment in Palantir only serves to profit off the continued surveillance and exploitation of communities by ICE.”
Palantir’s Peter Thiel problem
Palantir is also controversial because its co-founder and board chair, Peter Thiel, is controversial. Thiel, who was one of Facebook’s first outside investors and maintains a position on its board of directors, has seen his share of criticism over the years, but the libertarian billionaire really came into the public eye in 2016 when he revealed himself as the money behind Hulk Hogan’s privacy lawsuit against Gawker (which would ultimately kill the site) and an early Trump supporter.
As most of liberal Silicon Valley’s big names publicly came out against Trump, Thiel was one of relatively few public figures who supported his candidacy. After speaking at the Republican National Convention, he gave the Trump campaign $1.25 million, and when Trump won the election, New York magazine said he was “poised to become a national villain.” Thiel has been rewarded for his support: He was chosen to be a member of the president’s transition team; in the early days of the Trump presidency, Politico dubbed Thiel “Donald Trump’s ‘shadow president’ in Silicon Valley”; and Thiel’s chief of staff and protégé, Michael Kratsios, served as the White House’s chief technology officer from 2017 until this month, when he was named acting undersecretary for research and engineering at the Department of Defense. Thiel’s Trump support is said to have changed going into the 2020 election, however, and he hasn’t donated to Trump’s campaign since October 2018.
Due, in part, to Thiel’s Trump links, the company has faced a new round of scrutiny. Its contract with ICE caused numerous civil rights organizations to blame Palantir for helping the agency find and deport unauthorized immigrants. While other companies were ending their relationships with certain government agencies over purported ethical concerns, Palantir renewed its ICE contract in 2019 despite reported opposition even from its own employees, some of whom left the company over it. Palantir’s CEO, on the other hand, has said it’s not his company’s place to decide how its software is used.
The company appears to have doubled down on this reputation, according to statements made by Karp in a letter included with the company’s public filing documents.
“Our company was founded in Silicon Valley. But we seem to share fewer and fewer of the technology sector’s values and commitments,” Karp wrote. “We have chosen sides, and we know that our partners value our commitment. We stand by them when it is convenient, and when it is not.”
Perhaps to that end, Palantir recently moved its headquarters from its longtime home of Palo Alto to Denver, Colorado.
“For a while, it suited Palantir to paint itself as this lean and mean ‘secretive” startup,’” said Biddle, who used to work at Gawker. “Now that they’re established and have clearly weathered popular outrage over their work with ICE and a lifetime association with Peter Thiel, it’s time to cash in.”
The company that would never go public is about to go public
Karp famously and repeatedly said that he would never take his company public, believing that staying private gave Palantir an edge its public company competitors didn’t have.
“The minute companies go public, they are less competitive,” Karp said in 2014. “You need a lot of creative, wacky people that maybe Wall Street won’t understand. They might say the wrong thing all the way through an interview. … You really want your people to be focused on solving the problem.”
But Karp has seemed more amenable to the idea in the last few years. When Palantir added its first female board member in June, a public filing seemed all but certain — according to California law, public companies must have at least one female board member. Palantir filed its initial paperwork with the SEC on July 6 in a confidential filing that allowed it to avoid revealing much about its inner workings to the public. Twitter, Uber, and Spotify, among other startup giants, have done the same thing. There’s no timeline for when the company might actually go public.
Despite Palantir’s enormous valuation, the company has never made a profit and “struggled to live up to” its “hot startup image,” as the Wall Street Journal said in 2018. Bloomberg reported last year that Palantir’s valuation had plummeted to half, maybe even a quarter, of its 2015 peak, as investors wrote down the value of their holdings and the company offered discounted shares to employees to boost morale. Big corporate clients such as Coca-Cola, American Express, Hershey, Nasdaq, Home Depot, and JPMorgan have dropped the service, as has the NSA, according to BuzzFeed News.
But 2020 has been mostly good to Palantir, if to no one else. The company pulled in $480 million in revenue in the first half of the year, putting it on track to possibly hit $1 billion by the year’s end. It has that $800 million contract with the Army and is said to be increasing its corporate customer base with its “Foundry” product, which requires significantly less time, money, and employees to set up than the company’s custom-built solutions. Meanwhile, as evidenced by its recent work with HHS, the pandemic has increased worldwide demand for its software. Investors and employees alike have been itching for a return on their investment for years, and now might be the best time to make their wishes come true.
“The market right now is crazy,” Ashu Garg, a partner at venture capital firm Foundation Capital, told Recode. “There’s a junk rally for tech stocks in the public markets, and most tech stocks are very richly valued without a lot of discrimination around quality.”
Going public will mean Palantir’s opaque business practices will have to be more transparent, and the company may not be able to simply wave off public outcry over its work as it has in the past. But experts and advocates seem to doubt much will really change on either of those fronts.
“Going public might make some additional information public, but it does not guarantee oversight or accountability,” Scott said.
Garg doesn’t think Palantir’s work with agencies like ICE and the resulting bad publicity will be too much of a detriment in the market, given how interwoven that work is and has always been with the company’s business model — not the case for, say, the Facebooks and Ubers and Zooms of the world.
“Palantir’s core business, and probably its most profitable business, is its government business — especially work for three-letter agencies and the Department of Defense,” Garg said. “I don’t think that’s going to change.”
What remains to be seen, then, is if Palantir’s ability to marry 21st-century Silicon Valley disruption to 20th-century defense contracting will live up to its valuation when it hits the stock market. At a time when Big Tech companies are trying to make their data collection practices more transparent and say they’ll give consumers morecontrol over them (and are facing increased pressure from lawmakers to do so), Palantir has been able to keep much of its work with our data secret. A successful IPO will only give it more reasons and opportunities to do so.
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American software and services company, specializing in data analysis
Palantir Technologies is a public American software company that specializes in big dataanalytics. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, it was founded by Peter Thiel, Nathan Gettings, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Alex Karp in 2003. The company's name is derived from The Lord of the Rings where the magical palantíri were "seeing-stones," described as indestructible balls of crystal used for communication and to see events in other parts of the world.
The company is known for three projects in particular: Palantir Gotham, Palantir Metropolis, and Palantir Foundry. Palantir Gotham is used by counter-terrorism analysts at offices in the United States Intelligence Community (USIC) and United States Department of Defense. In the past, Gotham was used by fraud investigators at the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, a former US federal agency which operated from 2009 to 2015. Gotham was also used by cyber analysts at Information Warfare Monitor, a Canadian public-private venture which operated from 2003 to 2012. Palantir Metropolis is used by hedge funds, banks, and financial services firms. Palantir Foundry is used by corporate clients such as Morgan Stanley, Merck KGaA, Airbus, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
Palantir's original clients were federal agencies of the USIC. It has since expanded its customer base to serve state and local governments, as well as private companies in the financial and healthcare industries.
2003–2008: Founding and early years
Though usually listed as having been founded in 2004, SEC filings state Palantir's official incorporation to be in May 2003 by Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal), who named the start-up after the "seeing stone" in Tolkien's legendarium. Thiel saw Palantir as a "mission-oriented company" which could apply software similar to PayPal's fraud recognition systems to "reduce terrorism while preserving civil liberties."
In 2004, Thiel bankrolled the creation of a prototype by PayPal engineer Nathan Gettings and Stanford University students Joe Lonsdale and Stephen Cohen. That same year, Thiel hired Alex Karp, a former colleague of his from Stanford Law School, as chief executive officer.
Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, the company initially struggled to find investors. According to Karp, Sequoia Capital chairman Michael Moritz doodled through an entire meeting, and a Kleiner Perkins executive lectured the founders about the inevitable failure of their company. The only early investments were $2 million from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, and $30 million from Thiel himself and his venture capital firm, Founders Fund.
Palantir developed its technology by computer scientists and analysts from intelligence agencies over three years, through pilots facilitated by In-Q-Tel. The company stated computers alone using artificial intelligence could not defeat an adaptive adversary. Instead, Palantir proposed using human analysts to explore data from many sources, called intelligence augmentation.
2009: GhostNet and the Shadow Network
In 2009 and 2010 respectively, Information Warfare Monitor used Palantir software to uncover the GhostNet and the Shadow Network. The GhostNet was a China-based cyber espionage network targeting 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including the Dalai Lama’s office, a NATO computer and various national embassies. The Shadow Network was also a China-based espionage operation that hacked into the Indian security and defense apparatus. Cyber spies stole documents related to Indian security and NATO troop activity in Afghanistan.
In April 2010, Palantir announced a partnership with Thomson Reuters to sell the Palantir Metropolis product as "QA Studio" (a quantitative analysis tool). On June 18, 2010, Vice PresidentJoe Biden and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag held a press conference at the White House announcing the success of fighting fraud in the stimulus by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RATB). Biden credited the success to the software, Palantir, being deployed by the federal government. He announced that the capability will be deployed at other government agencies, starting with Medicare and Medicaid.
Estimates were $250 million in revenues in 2011.
2013–2016: Additional funding
|"[As of 2013] the U.S. spy agencies also employed Palantir to connect databases across departments. Before this, most of the databases used by the CIA and FBI were siloed, forcing users to search each database individually. Now everything is linked together using Palantir."|
|— TechCrunch in January 2015|
A document leaked to TechCrunch revealed that Palantir's clients as of 2013 included at least twelve groups within the U.S. government, including the CIA, the DHS, the NSA, the FBI, the CDC, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, the Special Operations Command, the United States Military Academy, the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization and Allies, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. However, at the time, the United States Army continued to use its own data analysis tool. Also, according to TechCrunch, the U.S. spy agencies such as the CIA and FBI were linked for the first time with Palantir software, as their databases had previously been "siloed."
In September 2013, Palantir disclosed over $196 million in funding according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. It was estimated that the company would likely close almost $1 billion in contracts in 2014. CEO Alex Karp announced in 2013 that the company would not be pursuing an IPO, as going public would make "running a company like ours very difficult." In December 2013, the company began a round of financing, raising around $450 million from private funders. This raised the company's value to $9 billion, according to Forbes, with the magazine further explaining that the valuation made Palantir "among Silicon Valley’s most valuable private technology companies."
In December 2014, Forbes reported that Palantir was looking to raise $400 million in an additional round of financing, after the company filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission the month before. The report was based on research by VC Experts. If completed, Forbes stated Palantir's funding could reach a total of $1.2 billion. As of December 2014, the company continued to have diverse private funders, Ken Langone and Stanley Druckenmiller, In-Q-Tel of the CIA,Tiger Global Management, and Founders Fund, which is a venture Firm operated by Peter Thiel, the chairman of Palantir. As of December 2014, Thiel was Palantir's largest shareholder.
The company was valued at $15 billion in November 2014. In June 2015, Buzzfeed reported the company was raising up to $500 million in new capital at a valuation of $20 billion. By December 2015, it had raised a further $880 million, while the company was still valued at $20 billion. In February 2016, Palantir bought Kimono Labs, a startup which makes it easy to collect information from public facing websites.
In August 2016, Palantir acquired data visualization startup Silk.
Palantir is one of four large technology firms to start working with the NHS on supporting COVID-19 efforts through the provision of software from Palantir Foundry and by April 2020 several countries have used Palantir technology to track and contain the contagion. Palantir also developed Tiberius, a software for vaccine allocation used in the United States.
In December 2020, Palantir was awarded a $44.4 million contract by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, boosting its shares by about 21%.
The company was valued at $9 billion in early 2014, with Forbes stating that the valuation made Palantir "among Silicon Valley's most valuable private technology companies". As of December 2014, Thiel was Palantir's largest shareholder. In January 2015, the company was valued at $15 billion after an undisclosed round of funding with $50 million in November 2014. This valuation rose to $20 billion in late 2015 as the company closed an $880 million round of funding. Palantir has never reported a profit. In 2018, Morgan Stanley valued the company at $6 billion.
Karp, Palantir's chief executive officer, announced in 2013 that the company would not pursue an IPO, as going public would make "running a company like ours very difficult". However, on October 18, 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that Palantir was considering an IPO in the first half of 2019 following a $41 billion valuation. In July 2020, it was revealed the company had filed for an IPO.
It ultimately went public on the New York Stock Exchange through a direct public offering on September 30, 2020 under the ticker symbol "PLTR".
Palantir Metropolis (formerly known as Palantir Finance) was software for data integration, information management and quantitative analytics. The software connects to commercial, proprietary and public data sets and discovers trends, relationships and anomalies, including predictive analytics. Aided by 120 "forward-deployed engineers" of Palantir during 2009, Peter Cavicchia III of JPMorgan used Metropolis to monitor employee communications and alert the insider threat team when an employee showed any signs of potential disgruntlement: the insider alert team would further scrutinize the employee and possibly conduct physical surveillance after hours with bank security personnel. The Metropolis team used emails, download activity, browser histories, and GPS locations from JPMorgan owned smartphones and their transcripts of digitally recorded phone conversations to search, aggregate, sort, and analyze this information for any specific keywords, phrases, and patterns of behavior. In 2013, Cavicchia may have shared this information with Frank Bisignano who had become the CEO of First Data Corporation.
Palantir Apollo is a continuous delivery system that manages and deploys Palantir Gotham and Foundry. Apollo was built out of the need for customers to use multiple public and private cloud platforms as part of their infrastructure. Apollo orchestrates updates to configurations and software in the Foundry and Gotham platforms using a micro-service architecture. This product allows Palantir to provide software as a service (SaaS) rather than to operate as a consulting company.
Palantir Foundry was used by NHS England in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in England to analyse the operation of the vaccination programme. A campaign was started against the company in June 2021 by Foxglove, a tech-justice nonprofit, because “Their background has generally been in contracts where people are harmed, not healed.” Clive Lewis MP, supporting the campaign said Palantir had an “appalling track record.”
The company has been involved in a number of business and consumer products, designing in part or in whole. For example, in 2014, they premiered Insightics, which according to the Wall Street Journal "extracts customer spending and demographic information from merchants’ credit-card records." It was created in tandem with credit processing company First Data.
See also: Information Warfare Monitor
Palantir Metropolis is used by hedge funds, banks, and financial services firms.
Palantir Foundry clients include Merck KGaA, Airbus and Ferrari.
Palantir partner Information Warfare Monitor used Palantir software to uncover both the Ghostnet and the Shadow Network.
U.S. civil entities
Palantir's software is used by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to detect and investigate fraud and abuse in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Specifically, the Recovery Operations Center (ROC) used Palantir to integrate transactional data with open-source and private data sets that describe the entities receiving stimulus funds.[clarification needed] Other clients as of 2019 included Polaris Project, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Institutes of Health,Team Rubicon, and the United Nations World Food Programme.
In October 2020, Palantir began helping the federal government set up a system that will track the manufacture, distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
U.S. military, intelligence, and police
Palantir Gotham is used by counter-terrorism analysts at offices in the United States Intelligence Community and United States Department of Defense, fraud investigators at the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, and cyber analysts at Information Warfare Monitor (responsible for the GhostNet and the Shadow Network investigation).
Other clients as of 2013 included DHS, NSA, FBI, CDC, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, Special Operations Command, West Point, the Joint IED Defeat Organization and Allies. However, at the time the United States Army continued to use its own data analysis tool. Also, according to TechCrunch, "The U.S. spy agencies also employed Palantir to connect databases across departments. Before this, most of the databases used by the CIA and FBI were siloed, forcing users to search each database individually. Now everything is linked together using Palantir."
U.S. military intelligence used the Palantir product to improve their ability to predict locations of improvised explosive devices in its war in Afghanistan. A small number of practitioners reported it to be more useful than the United States Army's program of record, the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A). California Congressman Duncan D. Hunter complained of United States Department of Defense obstacles to its wider use in 2012.
Palantir has also been reported to be working with various U.S. police departments, for example accepting a contract in 2013 to help the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center build a controversial license plates database for California. In 2012 New Orleans Police Department partnered with Palantir to create a predictive policing program.
In 2014, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) awarded Palantir a $41 million contract to build and maintain a new intelligence system called Investigative Case Management (ICM) to track personal and criminal records of legal and illegal immigrants. This application has originally been conceived by ICE's office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), allowing its users access to intelligence platforms maintained by other federal and private law enforcement entities. The system reached its "final operation capacity" under the Trump administration in September 2017.
Palantir took over the Pentagon's Project Maven contract in 2019 after Google decided not to continue developing AI unmanned drones used for bombings and intelligence.
International Atomic Energy Agency
Palantir was used by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify if Iran was in compliance with the 2015 agreement.
The firm has contracts relating to patient data from the British National Health Service. It was awarded an emergency, no-competition contract to mine COVID-19 patient data in 2019. In 2020 this was valued at more than £23.5 million and was extended for two more years. The firm was encouraged by Liam Fox “to expand their software business” in Britain.
Partnerships & Contracts
International Business Machines
On February 8, 2021, Palantir and IBM announced a new partnership that would use IBM's hybrid cloud data platform alongside Palantir's operations platform for building applications. The product, Palantir for IBM Cloud Pak for Data, is expected to simplify the process of building and deploying AI-integrated applications with IBM Watson. It will help businesses/users interpret and use large datasets without needing a strong technical background. Palantir for IBM Cloud Pak for Data will be available for general use in March of 2021.
On March 5, 2021, Palantir announced its partnership with Amazon AWS. Palantir's ERP Suite is now optimized to run on Amazon Web Services. One of the first notable successes of the ERP suite was with BP, which was able to save about $50 million in working capital within two weeks of onboarding the system.
Palantir took a stake in Babylon Health in June 2021. Ali Parsa told the Financial Times that “nobody” has brought some of the tech that Palantir owns “into the realm of biology and health care.”
I2 Inc sued Palantir in Federal Court alleging fraud, conspiracy, and copyright infringement over Palantir's algorithm. Shyam Sankar, Palantir's director of business development, used a private eye company as the cutout for obtaining I2's code. I2 settled out of court for $10 million in 2011.
WikiLeaks proposals (2010)
In 2010, Hunton & Williams LLP allegedly asked Berico Technologies, Palantir, and HBGary Federal to draft a response plan to "the WikiLeaks Threat." In early 2011 Anonymous publicly released HBGary-internal documents, including the plan. The plan proposed that Palantir software would "serve as the foundation for all the data collection, integration, analysis, and production efforts." The plan also included slides, allegedly authored by HBGary CEO Aaron Barr, which suggested "[spreading] disinformation" and "disrupting" Glenn Greenwald’s support for WikiLeaks.
Palantir CEO Karp ended all ties to HBGary and issued a statement apologizing to "progressive organizations… and Greenwald … for any involvement that we may have had in these matters." Palantir placed an employee on leave pending a review by a third-party law firm. The employee was later reinstated.
Racial discrimination lawsuit (2016)
On September 26, 2016, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Palantir alleging that the company discriminated against Asian job applicants on the basis of their race. According to the lawsuit, the company "routinely eliminated" Asian applicants during the hiring process, even when they were "as qualified as white applicants" for the same jobs. Palantir settled the suit in April 2017 for $1.7 million while not admitting wrongdoing.
British Parliament inquiry (2018)
During questioning in front of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, Christopher Wylie, the former research director of Cambridge Analytica, said that several meetings had taken place between Palantir and Cambridge Analytica, and that Alexander Nix, the chief executive of SCL, had facilitated their use of Aleksandr Kogan's data which had been obtained from his app "thisisyourdigitallife" by mining personal surveys. Kogan later established Global Science Research to share the data with Cambridge Analytica and others. Wylie confirmed that both employees from Cambridge Analytica and Palantir used Kogan's Global Science Research data together in the same offices.
ICE Partnership (since 2014)
Palantir has come under criticism due to its partnership developing software for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Palantir has responded that its software is not used to facilitate deportations. In a statement provided to the New York Times, the firm implied that because its contract was with HSI, a division of ICE focused on investigating criminal activities, it played no role in deportations. However, documents obtained by The Intercept show that this is not the case. According to these documents, Palantir's ICM software is considered 'mission critical' to ICE. Other groups critical of Palantir include the Brennan Center for Justice, National Immigration Project, the Immigrant Defense Project, the Tech Workers Coalition and Mijente. In one internal ICE report Mijente acquired, it was revealed that Palantir's software was critical in an operation to arrest the parents of undocumented migrant children.
On September 28, 2020, Amnesty International released a report criticizing Palantir failure to conduct human rights due diligence around its contracts with ICE. Concerns around Palantir's rights record were being scrutinized for contributing to human rights violations of asylum-seekers and migrants.
"HHS Protect Now" and privacy concerns (since 2020)
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prompted tech companies to respond to growing demand for citizen information from governments in order to conduct contact tracing and to analyze patient data. Consequently, data collection companies, such as Palantir, have been contracted to partake in pandemic data collection practices. Palantir's participation in “HHS Protect Now”, a program launched by the United States Department of Health and Human Services to track the spread of the coronavirus, has attracted criticism from American lawmakers.
Palantir's participation in COVID-19 response projects re-ignited debates over its controversial involvement in tracking undocumented immigrants, especially its alleged effects on digital inequality and potential restrictions on online freedoms. Critics allege that confidential data acquired by HHS could be exploited by other federal agencies in unregulated and potentially harmful ways. Alternative proposals request greater transparency in the process to determine whether any of the data aggregated would be shared with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to single out undocumented immigrants.
Project Maven (since 2018)
After Google had issues with employees walking out concerning the new contract in partnership with the Pentagon, Project Maven, a secret artificial intelligence program aimed at the unmanned operation of aerial vehicles, was taken up by Palantir. Critics warn that the technology could lead to autonomous weapons that decide who to strike without human input.
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