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Palantir Investors Should Shift Into Neutral Until Growth Picks Up

Palantir (NYSE:PLTR) is among the stocks that have failed to deliver on their potential. Following its Wall Street debut through direct listing in September 2020, the stock quickly went on to become a darling among retail investors.

The Palantir (PLTR) logo on a grey wall.
Source: Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

The interest in Palantir stock gradually waned. After scaling an all-time high of $45 on Jan. 27, 2021, the stock came all the way back down to sub-$10 levels amid the Ukraine-induced sell-off. It is now trading almost flat with its debut session’s price.

In an era when data is king, why is PLTR stock unable to capitalize on the promising opportunity? What would take the stock to break free of the lackluster phase and launch into a rally?

How Palantir Makes Money

Founded in 2003, Palantir originally set out to provide data analytics to defense agencies, intelligence agencies and governments to help them in matters of natural security, surveillance and other things. It has now broadened its business scope to include corporations.

In fiscal-year 2021, the company derived 58% of its revenue from the government segment, while 42% came from commercial customers.

The company has three main software platforms, namely Gotham, Foundry and Apollo. Gotham helps users to identify patterns from datasets, which in turn facilitates planning and execution of real-world responses to threats. Foundry is meant to create a central operating system for data belonging to companies. This allows them to integrate and analyze data in one place. Apollo is a platform meant to securely deliver software and updates across the company’s businesses.

Palantir sells its platform under a subscription model, and therefore revenue primarily comes from subscription. The company follows this an interesting practice of investing in early- and growth-stage companies, generally SPACs, in return for agreements to subscribe to its platforms.

This Peter Thiel-backed company also invests in gold. The 10-K report for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2021 showed that the company amassed $50.9 million worth of 100-ounce gold bars, which will be stashed away in a third-party facility situated in northeastern U.S.

Why Q4 Results Didn’t Help PLTR Stock?

Denver, Colorado-based Palantir reported in mid-February fourth-quarter revenue of $433 million, up 34% year-over-year. The topline exceeded the consensus estimate of $418 million.

Source: Chart by Shanthi Rexaline

Gross margin expanded 1.7 percentage points to 79.8% in the fourth quarter. The operating loss narrowed, thanks to the topline growth and a less than 1% decline in total operating expenses.

Sales & marketing accounted for roughly 40.2% of the total operating expenses, general and administrative expenses made up 40% and R&D roughly 20.8%. Interest expenses as opposed to interest income a year ago and higher provisioning for income taxes resulted in a flat loss per share on a GAAP basis despite the better operating leverage.

Non-GAAP earnings per share came in at 2 cents, half as much as analysts had hoped for.

Palantir guided to first-quarter revenue of $443 million, which was higher than the then-consensus estimate of $439 million. The company also reiterated its long-term revenue goal of 30% or greater growth through 2025.

Apparently, investors are getting impatient with Palantir over its inability to transfer the gains on the topline all the way down to its bottom line.

How Is PLTR Stock Positioned Near Term

Palantir’s co-founder and CEO Alex Karp suggested on the fourth-quarter earnings call that the growth achieved thus far has come despite the scarce salesforce. Net dollar retention – the measure of how a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company’s recurring revenue has swelled or declined for a particular period – was at a robust 131%.

Karp sees scope for further improvement from hiring additional sales people.  The company is looking to add around 200 more people to its sales team. Although operating expenses will likely balloon, the initiative will likely bring in incremental revenue. It remains to be seen if revenue can grow enough to keep the operating margin stable.

There are skeptics as well. Excluding contribution from strategic investments, topline growth decelerated, and government revenue growth continues to head southward, Citigroup analyst Tyler Radke said in a note reviewing fourth-quarter earnings.

Palantir’s CEO, however, dismissed concerns over the marked slowdown in government revenue growth. “What you see in U.S. gov is a compounded growth of 30%, but like this which is the positive of U.S. gov is it’s reliable. The sums are big. The quality of the revenue is very high,” Karp said.

The company said it closed 64 deals, valued at $1 million or more in the fourth quarter.

Bottom Line On Palantir Stock

Palantir cannot be shrugged off as a phony company lacking a sound business model. Skeptics, however, may want to see evidence of accelerating organic revenue growth, margin expansion and continued execution.

Piper Sandler analyst Weston Twigg, meanwhile, expects reacceleration in government revenues, premised on increased adoptions by the U.S. and other nations amid the Ukraine war.

PLTR stock, which is off about 68% from its peak, is currently trading at a trailing-twelve-month Price/Sales ratio of 14.31 times. The valuation seems fairly reasonable or even a little depressed compared to the 35+ multiple it once boasted in September 2021. In comparison, the company’s SaaS peer Datadog (NASDAQ:DDOG) sports a heady multiple of 48.5 times.

The average analysts’ price target for PLTR stock, according to data compiled by TipRanks, is $13.75, suggesting roughly 23% upside from current levels.

Given the general pessimism toward the tech space amid the ongoing macroeconomic concerns and geopolitical tensions, and the prevalence of company-specific risks, I recommend taking a hold stance on the stock. If Palantir shows progress with its organic revenue growth and demonstrates a clear path toward profitability, it could be time for revisiting the thesis.

On the date of publication, Shanthi Rexaline did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines

Shanthi is a contributor to InvestorPlace.com as well as a staff writer with Benzinga. Equipped with a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and an MBA with specialization in finance and marketing, she has about two decades of experience in financial reporting and analysis, and specializes in the biopharma and EV sectors.

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media, https://investorplace.com/2022/03/pltr-stock-investors-should-shift-into-neutral-until-growth-picks-up/.

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