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Secretive $20 billion startup Palantir is buying $225 million of stock back from employees

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Alexander Karp - Business Insider

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Palantir CEO Alexander Karp

Secretive data-mining startup Palantir is buying $ 225 million of stock back from its employees at $ 7.40 per share, reports BuzzFeed.

That’s a higher price per share than how some investors currently value the company says the report. Palantir last raised a whopping $ 880 million in December 2015, at a valuation around $ 20 billion.

Investment firms like Morgan Stanley, Transamerica, and Fidelity value their Palantir shares at $ 5.92, while Valic goes as low as $ 3.79, BuzzFeed reports, in both cases representing a markdown from that $ 20 billion valuation.

Going up to $ 7.40 per share is a sign that Palantir believes that it’s on the right track, and it’s paying employees a premium on their stock options to prove it.

It’s also a signal that Palantir likely doesn’t plan to list itself on the public markets any time soon: Pinterest undertook a similar stock buyback maneuver in 2015 to help some restless employees cash out, as a way to keep morale up while it waited out a chilly IPO market. 

This is actually the second liquidity event mounted by Palantir. The first, last year, was for $ 50 million at $ 6.13 per share. That means that any employees, past or present, who held onto their shares are eligible a heftier payday. 

That’s good, because per a previous BuzzFeed report, Palantir is experiencing some growing pains as it struggles to keep executives and employees on board, trending towards a 20% turnover rate in 2016. Palantir cofounder and famed investor Joe Lonsdale disputed the report, saying that while turnover is up, it’s no higher than tech industry norms.

It’s not known what Palantir plans on doing with the shares that it purchases from employees, although the plan with the last buyback was to sell that equity to outside investment firms. 

Palantir did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

 

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