A rare light has been shone on the finances of Peter Thiel's secretive data-mining firm Palantir - which makes software used by US intelligence agencies and corporates trying to sniff out threats.

The German-born, US entrepreneur received a fast-tracked NZ citizenship in 2011, despite spending just 11 days in the country.

A 2018 Herald investigation uncovered that the NZ Defence Force has spent around $7.2m with Palantir since 2012.

There are also strong indications that the GCSB and SIS (who won't officially comment) are customers.

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Citing sources familiar with the figures, the Wall Street Journal says the privately-held Palantir's revenue jumped from US$600 million to US$880m ($1.3 billion) last year, well ahead of the US$750m that investors had been told to expect.

Central to the revenue lift was a US$42m contract signed with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the controversial US government border protection agency.

Thiel has been a financial supporter and advisor to President Trump and, the Journal reports, "Some Palantir staffers and civil rights advocates have criticised Palantir's ICE ties."

Peter Thiel snapped in the foyer of Trump Tower in November, 2016 ahead of a meeting with the then president-elect Donald Trump. Photo / Getty.
Peter Thiel snapped in the foyer of Trump Tower in November, 2016 ahead of a meeting with the then president-elect Donald Trump. Photo / Getty.

The sources say Palantir is not profitable overall, but "Palantir's government arm separately continues to make money, in part thanks to a tradition of dismissing internal and external criticism about its affiliation with unpopular agencies worldwide".

Investors have been told Palantir will finally be in the black this year, clearing the way for its long-anticipated IPO - which the Journal says could value the Thiel's fast-growing company at $US41b ($60b). During its last major capital raise, in 2015, Palantir - which has raised a total of US$2.5b across various funding rounds - had a private equity value of US$20b.

Palantir has not disclosed individual shareholders' stakes, but Forbes reported that Thiel owns 10 per cent of the company.

Forbes puts Thiel's wealth at US$2.5b, making him the second-richest NZ citizen behind Graeme Hart. But Thiel's wealth could at least triple with a successful Palantir listing.

Early Facebook and Paypal backer Thiel has put money into Kiwi startups Xero and Vend, but more recently his investment activity has been focused in North America, where pot stock Tilray has been a notable recent win.

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