Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc., speaks during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Palantir Posted Nearly $1 Billion in 2018 Sales, Executive Says

(Bloomberg) -- Palantir Technologies Inc., the data analytics startup co-founded by Peter Thiel, generated almost $1 billion in revenue last year, an executive said in a French television interview.

The disclosure is unusual for the secretive, privately held company, as it prepares for a possible initial public offering. Fabrice Bregier, the president of Palantir’s France business, provided the revenue figure during a Wednesday interview with French business media station BFM. A spokeswoman for Palantir declined to comment.

Roughly half of last year’s revenue came from government agencies, such as the U.S. Defense Department, and the other half from corporate customers, including Airbus SE, Merck KGaA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, said people familiar with the matter. Palantir had previously forecast sales of $750 million to $800 million for 2018, but a new product called Foundry performed better than expected, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Founded in 2004, Palantir long operated as a sort of tech consulting firm. It dispatched software engineers and other workers to clients’ offices to build custom programs that could mine disparate data sets and teach customers how to interpret the information. Foundry, Palantir’s newest service, automates much of that work, enabling the company to sell ready-to-use software at higher profit margins. The strategy seemed to be paying off in Europe, where it turned a profit on that unit in 2017, the most recent data available.

Selling to companies has been the main area of growth for Palantir. In that business, Palantir competes with the likes of International Business Machines Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Tableau Software Inc. Palantir’s longtime relationships with law enforcement and government agencies, including U.S. immigration, have drawn criticism.

Palantir is hoping to keep momentum going by recruiting an army of salespeople, a departure from a strategy the company had used for most of the past 15 years. Palantir is one of the world’s most valuable technology startups, but the price has remained flat at $20 billion since 2015. Even Palantir’s own shareholders have said the stock is worth much less. That’s a problem for a company that bankers hope to pitch for an IPO as soon as this year, with a value of as much as $41 billion.

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