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  • Palantir Slips on First Day After Long-Awaited Listing

    Palantir Slips on First Day After Long-Awaited Listing

    (Bloomberg) -- Palantir Technologies Inc. fell 5% from its opening trades in its debut as a public company, ending a 17-year tradition of secrecy surrounding the software business co-founded by Peter Thiel.The data analytics company’s share price fell to $9.50 after opening Wednesday at $10 on the New York Stock Exchange. Palantir listed its shares directly on the exchange, rather than raising capital through an initial public offering. As in the three other major direct listings that have taken place, the exchange had set a reference price -- $7.25 for Palantir -- to help guide investors and to allow shares to begin trading.Palantir ended the day with a market capitalization of about $15.7 billion based on its listed shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. On a fully diluted basis based on all the shares covered in its filings, the company has a value of almost $21 billion, in line with the $20 billion valuation private investors awarded it in 2015.Going public was the right decision for Palantir, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Alex Karp said in an interview, without commenting directly on the first day’s trading.“We didn’t need to change our culture,” he said, referring among other things to Palantir’s tight group of insiders and their support for the programs run by U.S. government agencies. “I feel really good.”Karp, Thiel and a tight-knit group of leaders will retain tight control of the company through a three-tiered share structure and voting rights. That’s needed to assure customers -- some of them controversial -- that they can trust the company, Karp said.“It gives our clients enormous comfort that we will stand by them when times are good and when times are bad,” Karp said. “We support some of the most clandestine operations in the world.”Companies are racing to go public in the U.S., where investors are welcoming new stocks ahead of a presidential election likely to drive volatility. Companies raised $61 billion from initial public offerings this quarter, the busiest on record, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Software businesses were at the forefront of the listing boom. Snowflake Inc., the largest of them, raised $3.9 billion including so-called greenshoe shares in its IPO this month.Asana Inc., a software company backed by Thiel’s venture capital firm Founders Fund, also went public Wednesday through a direct listing, an unconventional mechanism for taking a company public. Asana’s shares gained 6.7% from their opening price, giving the company a value of about $5.5 billion on a fully diluted basis.Palantir traveled a long and sometimes rough road to its public debut. Thiel helped start the company in 2003 with early funding from an arm of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, but Palantir’s darling status among U.S. government agencies didn’t translate into success with businesses for well over a decade.Named for the all-seeing stones in the fictional “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Palantir combines myriad, ever-changing data streams into one centralized “source of truth.” Customers, including the U.S. Defense Department and pharmaceutical giant Merck KGaA, then mine that information and analyze it to make decisions. The results are presented as a series of spiderweb-like visuals, making information accessible to non-technical users.For years, Palantir operated much like a consultancy, dispatching its engineers to customer sites to implement the software and build one-off applications. The model was expensive, and Palantir incurred heavy losses for most of its history. The business remains unprofitable.When Palantir built a new software platform, Foundry, in 2016, the company cut costs by automating much of the grunt work and said it reduced time to set up customers from months to days. Palantir expects to deliver an adjusted profit this year on more than $1 billion in revenue.Competition for global customers will be fierce. Palantir only began building a sales team in 2019. The company currently has about 125 customers, with the U.S. Army being the largest representing 15% of revenue.Palantir’s chairman, Thiel, and its work for government agencies including U.S. immigration have sparked concerns among corporate watchdogs and human rights groups including Amnesty International. The company has also drawn rebukes from governance experts who point out that Thiel will have power with little accountability because of multi-class stock that grants him outsize power in perpetuity.Palantir followed other tech companies in its decision to bypass a traditional IPO. Spotify Technology SA went public through a direct listing in 2018 and Slack Technologies Inc. followed last year.In a direct listing, employees and other shareholders can sell stock without the company issuing new shares to raise capital. Slack and Spotify each soared on their first day of trading, reaching valuations of $19.5 billion and $27.8 billion, respectively.(Updates with CEO’s comments in fourth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • EQS Group

    Merck KGaA: Merck KGaA reverses provision for lawsuit in the amount of EUR 365 million

    Merck KGaA / Key word(s): MiscellaneousMerck KGaA: Merck KGaA reverses provision for lawsuit in the amount of EUR 365 million29-Sep-2020 / 18:06 CET/CESTDisclosure of an inside information acc. to Article 17 MAR of the Regulation (EU) No 596/2014, transmitted by DGAP - a service of EQS Group AG.The issuer is solely responsible for the content of this announcement.Darmstadt, September 29, 2020. In the United States Merck KGaA's subsidiary EMD Serono, Inc. (Merck) is involved in a US patent dispute with Biogen Inc., United States (Biogen). Biogen sued Merck for damages in connection with a patent infringement caused by Merck's product Rebif before the U.S. District Court New Jersey, Newark. Merck defended itself against the allegations and brought a countersuit claiming that Biogen's patent is invalid. In February 2018 a jury declared Biogen's patent invalid vis-à-vis Merck. The jury verdict was overturned by the District Court Judge, who upheld the validity of Biogen's patent. Merck filed a complaint with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit against this ruling.On 28 September 2020 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit set aside the decision of the District Court Judge, invalidated Biogen's patent and instructed the District Court to reinstate the jury verdict.Therefore, Merck KGaA has decided today to reverse the provisions for the patent dispute proceedings in the amount of EUR 365 million. Thereof, up to a mid to high double-digit million amount might be booked into the financial result.Merck KGaA will adjust its forecasts accordingly as part of its regular financial reportingFriederike Segeberg, Leiterin News & ReputationMerck KGaAFrankfurter Straße 25064293 DarmstadtGermanyPhone: +49 6151 72 - 6328Fax: +49 6151 72 - 913321Email: investor.relations@merckgroup.comInternet: www.merck.deISIN: DE0006599905WKN: 659990Indices: DAXStock exchanges: Regulated Market of Frankfurt am Main (Prime Standard); Open Markets of Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich, Stuttgart; EUREX derivatives exchange; London, SIX29-Sep-2020 CET/CEST The DGAP Distribution Services include Regulatory Announcements, Financial/Corporate News and Press Releases. Archive at Language: English Company: Merck KGaA Frankfurter Str. 250 64293 Darmstadt Germany Phone: +49 (0)6151 72 - 6328 E-mail: Internet: ISIN: DE0006599905 WKN: 659990 Indices: DAX Listed: Regulated Market in Frankfurt (Prime Standard); Regulated Unofficial Market in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich, Stuttgart, Tradegate Exchange; London, SIX EQS News ID: 1137699   End of Announcement DGAP News Service

  • Peter Thiel Tightens His Grip on Palantir Ahead of Public Listing

    Peter Thiel Tightens His Grip on Palantir Ahead of Public Listing

    (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Peter Thiel was a no-show at the investor day leading up to the direct listing for Palantir Technologies Inc., the data-mining company he founded 17 years ago. And no one from the company will ring the bell at Palantir's market debut.Thiel's absence from the Wall Street pomp belies the outsize influence he'll continue to wield long after the company goes public. Thiel will have more control over the company than any other individual or investor group, and an unconventional voting structure will award additional power to Thiel and two other co-founders in perpetuity.Palantir isn’t the first company in Silicon Valley to use super-voting shares to cement control for its founders. Other tech leaders including Mark Zuckerberg, Snap Inc. Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel and WeWork CEO Adam Neumann were all given disproportionate control over their companies as they headed to the public markets. But good-governance advocates say that handing so much power to a limited group of people could undermine the standards of accountability meant to be enforced by the market, making it harder for smaller shareholders to exert their will in cases where they believe a company is being poorly run.“They set it up so Peter Thiel can still sort of run it like a private company and still have the advantage of being public,” said Michael Weisbach, a professor at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business who specializes in corporate governance and private equity. “They obviously want to keep control of this company and don’t want a bunch of outsiders.”Palantir has been unapologetic about its governance mechanics. Its CEO, co-founder Alex Karp, has repeatedly told would-be backers to pick a “different company” if they don’t like the way it operates.Few expect Palantir’s voting mechanics to derail the company’s planned public listing. This year, Palantir expects to take in more than $1 billion in revenue and, for the first time, turn an adjusted profit, excluding stock compensation. While Weisbach said that its valuation would have been higher without the tightly controlled governance and voting structure, there are optimistic signs about how public investors will receive the company. Banks have reportedly told investors that Palantir could start trading at a market valuation of almost $22 billion. Representatives for Thiel and Palantir declined to comment for this story.Palantir’s technology collects and combines ever-changing data streams into what it calls a single “source of truth,” which its clients can then mine for meaning and use to make decisions. Applications vary widely based on the customer. Merck KGaA uses Palantir’s software to speed drug discovery. United Airlines Holding Inc. uses it to optimize flight routes. And the U.S. government uses it for tasks including identifying roadside bombs in Afghanistan, catching tax cheats and, more controversially, locating people who entered the U.S. illegally for deportation.Longtime Palantir investor Eric Munson of Adit Ventures said that the company’s aggressive voting structure is necessary to ensure Palantir can continue to operate without influence from outside parties who disagree with its business. Some of the company’s work is politically sensitive, he added, and its voting structure will mean that the founders can pick and choose clients whose interests align with those of the U.S., regardless of investor pressure. "I like that there's no ambiguity where the leadership stands,” Munson said. That reasoning has limited purchase with groups like Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy advisory firm. “The problem is power without accountability,” said Marc Goldstein, the group’s head of U.S research. Goldstein cited Mark Zuckerberg’s control over Facebook as a textbook example of too much control accruing to one man. As a long-serving board member of Facebook, Thiel knows that structure well.“Palantir is talking about how different they are from Silicon Valley, and yet they are taking on the absolutely worst aspect of Silicon Valley with this,” Goldstein said. Palantir has always been tightly held. It has only recently started adding independent board members, and even the independent directors have close links to Thiel, the board chairman. This summer, Palantir appointed three new directors, including 8VC partner Alexander Moore, who was an early Palantir employee, and former journalist Alexandra Wolfe Schiff, who wrote a book called “Valley of the Gods” that was largely about Thiel. Palantir has said it would comply with Securities and Exchange Commission rules that it have a majority of independent directors within one year of going public. Currently, the company says three of its six current board members are independent.Even when it does add more directors, though, power will remain concentrated in the hands of a few people. According to Palantir’s SEC filing, three of the company’s founders—Thiel, Stephen Cohen and Karp—will receive Class F shares entitling them to 49.99% of the company’s voting power, control that will not be directly tied to the number of other shares they own. The structure is highly unusual but not without precedent, according to Weisbach, who said the Ford family set up a similar system more than 60 years ago at Ford Motor Co. That company also established that a percentage of the vote would remain with the family regardless of its financial stake in the company. Even without a mechanism to hand more voting control to the founders, Thiel would still wield substantial influence at Palantir. As the largest investor in the company, he will own 29.8% of all Class B shares, which give the holder 10 votes per share. Thiel owns more Class B shares than any other individual or entity, including Founders Fund, the venture firm Thiel founded. That group, where he still serves as a partner, holds the next highest amount at 12.7%.Thiel also has a stake in several of the entities that have invested in Palantir. Besides his involvement with Founders Fund, Thiel is an investor in funds managed by venture capital firm 8VC and in the merchant bank Disruptive Technology Advisers, which oversees Palantir backer Disruptive Technology Solutions, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Henry Hofman, a corporate governance researcher at Morningstar corporate ratings firm Sustainalytics, said the net result was another unfortunate example of Silicon Valley founders grasping for too much control. “Anything that strays away from the one-vote, one-share structure, we see that negatively,” he said. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.