Palantir (PLTR) shares closed $9.50 a share on Wednesday. Just hours earlier the stock had opened at $10 a share when it listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock had gone as high as $11.42 during its first ten minutes of trading.
The data mining software company co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel went public through a direct listing, which is different than a traditional IPO.
The company did not issue new shares or raise capital through its public debut. Therefore there was no IPO price — but rather a reference price, which normally reflects shares in secondary markets. Palantir’s reference price was $7.25 a share. Shares opened around 38% higher than that, putting the firm’s valuation at $17 billion.
Asana (ASAN), the work management software company, also went public via a direct listing on Wednesday and opened at $27 a share, well above its reference price of $21 per share.
Palantir has garnered increased attention since it announced plans to go public, mainly because of the data sensitive services it provides to government agencies and other organizations and its corporate governance structure which it has clarified through amendments in its S-1 filing.
The company has a three-class voting share structure, which include “F shares” for its founders Stephen Cohen, Peter Thiel, and Alex Karp. Essentially the structure allows the founders to retain outsized voting control of the company, so long as they meet a minimal ownership threshold.
Palantir provides two main services to its clients. Palantir Gotham is the name of its first software platform constructed for analysts at defense and intelligence agencies. The service is used by government agencies and law enforcement.
Palantir Foundry is the platform it created to be used by commercial institutions across different industries for data involving large projects. The platform creates a central operating system for organizations’s data.
Morningstar recently initiated coverage of the company, valuing it at $28.2 billion dollars.
“In our view, Palantir's government and enterprise software has become mission critical and deeply engrained with clients,” wrote equity analyst Mark Cash in a note to investors.
“Despite Palantir’s lack of profitability today, we anticipate that Palantir will generate robust operating leverage and excess returns in the long run,” he added.
Over the summer, the 17-year-old company moved its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Denver, Colorado. Its leadership has been outspoken against the Northern California tech culture for raising eyebrows against the company’s work involving government contracts.
In its S-1 filing CEO and co-founder Alex Karp chided Silicon Valley’s “elite” for their insularity and being disconnected from real world issues.
"Software projects with our nation's defense and intelligence agencies, whose missions are to keep us safe, have become controversial, while companies built on advertising dollars are commonplace,” wrote Karp.
“For many consumer internet companies, our thoughts and inclinations, behaviors and browsing habits, are the product for sale. The slogans and marketing of many of the Valley's largest technology firms attempt to obscure this simple fact,” he added.
Ines covers the U.S. stock market. Follow her on Twitter at @ines_ferre