Palantir, the secretive data-mining company co-founded by Peter Thiel, is lining up an IPO that will value his company at up to $US41 billion ($60b), according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The company is said to be in talks with investment banks Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley about a 2019 listing.

Thiel holds a 10 per cent stake in Palantir, according to Forbes, meaning his stake would be worth US$4.1b if the listing goes ahead at full valuation. A successful listing could propel his wealth to around the $10b mark, ahead of New Zealand's current richest man, Graeme Hart, who sits on an estimated $9b.

At various points over the past two years, Palantir chief executive Alex Karp has talked openly about plans for a listing, once market conditions suit. The IPO momentum building with a possible Uber listing for up to US$120b and messaging company Slack for up to US$7b could mean the time is now right.


Co-founded by Thiel and Karp in 2004, Palantir makes software that helps security and law enforcement clients like the NSA, CIA and FBI mine mountains of "big data" from electronic surveillance.

Its software is credited with helping US authorities hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden.

Our GCSB and SIS won't confirm or deny if they are Palantir customers, but the company has an office in Wellington, and the GCSB has advertised for staff proficient in Palantir's software. A born-and-bred Kiwi, Jonty Kelt, is one of Palantir's most senior executives. And a Herald investigation uncovered that the NZ Defence Force has spent around $7.2m with Palantir since 2012.

Peter Thiel. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
Peter Thiel. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Thiel hit headlines last year when it was revealed he had been made a New Zealand citizen since 2011 - despite spending just 11 days in the country.

The German-born, Californian-resident entrepreneur's Kiwi passport was fast-tracked as he invested millions in local startups including Xero and Vend.

Thiel had his first big payday as an early investor in PayPal, then hit the jackpot again as the first outside investor in Facebook.

Palantir has grown strongly over the past couple of years, despite some commentators raising conflict-of-interest concerns about Thiel being a major Trump campaign donor and later a Trump administration advisor at the same time his company sold software to the US government.

Forbes estimates Thiel's wealth at US$2.5b. That could multiply with the Palantir IPO. The privately-held company has not disclosed stakes and has had several capital raising rounds, but Forbes reports Thiel retains a 10% stake - which will be worth $US4.1b if the listing goes ahead at full valuation.


Even in the current IPO-friendly market, US$41b would be a heady valuation for Palantir.

The company has never published any financials but has told investors it expects around US$750 million in revenue this year, up from roughly US$600 million last year. That would equate to a value of 55 times 2018 revenue.