My first and only article about Palantir Technologies Inc. (NYSE:PLTR) was published in February 2022. At that point, the stock was trading for $14 and although the stock had already declined 67% at that point from its previous all-time highs, I stated that Palantir was a risky bet. In the meantime, the stock has been cut almost in half again and is now trading about 80% below its previous all-time high. Nevertheless, Palantir is still not a good investment, and I will explain why I am still cautious about the stock.
We can start by looking at the third quarter results, which Palantir reported at the beginning of November. And for starters, we must point out that Palantir is still increasing with a solid growth rate while other technology companies are already struggling and are not able to report double-digit revenue growth anymore.
Revenue in the third quarter increased from $392.1 million in the same quarter last year to $477.9 million in this quarter – resulting in 21.9% year-over-year growth. Loss from operations declined from $91.9 million in Q3/21 to $62.2 million in Q3/22 and although Palantir could improve, the business is still not profitable. But diluted net loss per share increased from $0.05 to a loss of $0.06 in this quarter.
Additionally, the total customers for Palantir increased from 203 in the same quarter last year to 337 right now – resulting in 66% year-over-year growth. And compared to the previous quarter, Palantir added 33 net new customers.
During the third quarter of fiscal 2022, Palantir closed 78 deals of at least $1 million with 32 of these deals being at least $5 million and 19 deals were at least $10 million.
And when looking at the guidance for fiscal 2022, Palantir is now expecting $1.9 billion to $1.902 billion in revenue. Palantir raised its guidance and is now expecting an adjusted income from operations to be between $384 million to $386 million.
But despite the raised guidance, when listening to Alexander Karp during the earnings calls or in interviews, he is seeing difficult times ahead. During the last earnings call, Alexander Karp made the following statement:
By the way, that's why we prepared and then that's the technical thing. Why do we have 8 quarters of free cash flow? Do you think it's a coincidence, we were preparing for this. We have -- why do we have $2.4 billion in the bank and no debt? We weren't living in the metasphere. We were living in this world in the way we thought it would be -- and we've been essentially -- you could even look at this as a prep. We're a prepper company. We've been preparing it's like -- preppers have their rucksack and a rifle. We have PG, GAIA, Foundry and $2.4 billion in the bank and no debt. That's our company.
And when looking at the balance sheet, Palantir is positioned quite well. On September 30, 2022, the company had $2,411 million in cash and cash equivalents as well as $57 million in short-term marketable securities. And aside from having no debt on the balance sheet, the company also has no goodwill on its balance sheet. In case of Palantir, 74% of its $3,319 million in total assets are highly liquid assets (cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities), which is good in case of crisis.
But not only is Palantir prepared for challenging times due to a solid balance sheet, Alexander Karp is also expecting the company to profit from the uncertain times ahead. During an interview with CNBC at the end of September, he made the following statement:
Bad times are incredibly good for Palantir... bad times really uncover the durable companies, and tech is going through bad times... interest rates are the reason.
Karp also states that Palantir’s software is at war – in Europe and around the world. And he sees the software as a way for nations to impose and defend their values. And Karp sees great growth potential in the years ahead – not only because Palantir might profit from bad times:
We recognize that our path to growth is not always linear, but with the opportunity that lies ahead, we continue to recruit and retain the top talent at a time when other companies in the technology sector are slashing their plans and cutting workforces.
We have spent the last 2 decades building our products for the world in which we actually live. The disruption and uncertainty that we're seeing around us from Ukraine, the pandemic and inflation, it's driving customers towards us and to our software.
In the second quarter earnings call, Alexander Karp said his ambition was to drive the company to $4.5 billion in revenue in 2025. In the same earnings call, Karp also expected that Palantir will finally be profitable in 2025. And of course, it is not unreasonable for Palantir to expect high growth rates. In its Form S-1. Palantir wrote its total addressable market [TAM] should be approximately $119 billion with the commercial sector being around $56 billion and the government sector being around $63 billion. This TAM is excluding institutions and countries where Palantir has chosen not to sell its software.
This seems to be in line with the expectations of other studies. And not only has Palantir a market share of only around 2% right now – giving the company enough room to grow by gaining market shares. Different studies are also expecting growth rates in the double digits for the market. When looking at the advanced analytics market, some expect even a CAGR above 20% in the years to come.
And during the last earnings call, Alexander Karp also pointed out where he is seeing the huge competitive advantage of Palantir – especially compared to peers like Microsoft (MSFT) or Snowflake (SNOW):
The answer is really the ontology. It's why our platforms remain far ahead of the competition. And that's because the ontology, it's the missing link in terms of what you need to realize value from all of these investments. It's the component and the architecture that's required to get data apps to actually deliver value on top of cloud data warehouses or to get AI to scale throughout the enterprise or to turn your digital twin into something that's actionable and operational within the enterprise. And we've spent 15 years investing in a road map that's deep and built upon the ontology, and it continues to be the focus of all the core investments that we're making around product.
But despite the competitive advantage Karp sees for Palantir in the years to come, the business is also facing risks in its path toward growth. In his last letter to shareholders, Alexander Karp wrote:
It has been our experience, however, that some countries, particularly in continental Europe, including Germany, have fallen behind the United States in their willingness and ability to implement enterprise software systems that challenge existing habits and modes of operation.
There have been repeated attempts to build replicas of Silicon Valley in continental Europe, in Germany and elsewhere, but the results have been decidedly mixed.
We have found that large institutions in the United States have been far more willing to investigate the most significant sources of systemic dysfunction within their organizations, which in the current moment often relate to the ability or rather inability of an institution to metabolize its own data.
And this is an aspect that should certainly not be underestimated for Palantir’s ambitions to grow in the years to come. And from a German perspective I think Karp is correct in his assessment of people living here (as well as institutions) having strong reservations against Palantir.
Not only is the business facing several risks, but shareholders are also facing risks by owning the stock right now. And one huge risk shareholders are facing is the stock-based compensation which is leading to a constant dilution of shares and in the last few quarters, the number of outstanding shares increased with a high pace. Right now, we have 2,073 million outstanding shares compared to 1,964 million one year earlier and 1,763 million after the IPO of Palantir. This is resulting in an increase of almost 18% in less than two years and in my opinion, this is not a good sign for investors. And finally, this dilution has a huge negative impact on the intrinsic value of Palantir.
Of course, stock-based compensations can also have a positive side as it is a good way to get great talent for the business and employees, that are behind the company and the company’s goals (as they are also profiting from a thriving business resulting in a higher share price). And this can certainly have a positive effect on the business in the long run. However, diluted in the high single digits annually is extreme – even for a company growing with a high pace.
A final risk for shareholders is simply overpaying for a stock that is not worth what it is currently trading for.
We can start by looking at simple valuation metrics – especially the price-free-cash-flow ratio as well as the price-sales ratio. Looking at the price-earnings ratio doesn’t make much sense as the metric is negative. Of course, the price-sales ratio declined over the last year, but Palantir is still trading for 9 times sales which is certainly not cheap. When looking at the S&P 500 (SPY), there are only about 45 companies trading with a higher price-sales ratio. And the median P/S ratio of the S&P 500 is 2.72 at the time of writing. And even when looking at technology stocks (according to Finviz; market cap above $2 billion), the median P/S ratio is 4.41. But as long as we are talking about price-sales ratios we also have to point out that Snowflake is trading for 28 times sales right now and compared to these valuation multiples, Palantir’s valuation seems to be quite reasonable.
When looking at the price-free-cash-flow ratio, Palantir is trading for a multiple of 84. Although this is below the 2021 P/FCF peak of 750 and below the average of 227, Palantir is still trading for extremely high valuation multiples (and usually even high growth rates can’t justify valuation multiples close to 100). And once again, we can point out that Snowflake is trading for a P/FCF ratio of 155 – twice as high as Palantir.
When using a discount cash flow calculation, we can take the free cash flow of the last four quarters as basis. But let’s be more optimistic and use the highest free cash flow Palantir could report so far ($320 million in free cash flow). When taking this amount as basis and assume 6% growth till perpetuity (like we always do with high quality businesses) the company must grow its free cash flow about 17% annually for the next ten years to be fairly valued (assuming 2,073 million outstanding shares and a 10% discount rate).
I would not say such growth rates are impossible for a company – we can find several examples of businesses growing with such a CAGR over 10 years or even longer. But 17% growth for 10 years would probably be one of the highest growth rates I ever used in an intrinsic value calculation just to reach fair value for a stock. And these calculations are assuming no further dilution of shares, which seems rather unlikely at this point. In the last two years, the company has been diluting in the high single digits and to set dilution off, Palantir rather must grow its free cash flow about 25% annually to be fairly valued for the next few years. And 25% growth is also not impossible but no growth rate I would use in any way (in my opinion, this would be investing based on hope).
Although the stock price is now more than 40% lower than when my last article was published, I am afraid the conclusion must be the same. The stock is still not fairly valued and not a great investment. With thousands of other stocks being available and us being able to identify at least 100 high-quality businesses with a wide economic moat, I don’t see any reason to bet on Palantir. A company where it is difficult to estimate the growth potential and where the huge stock-based compensations and resulting stock dilutions are offsetting to any investor. And the potential high growth potential Palantir could have is not enough at this point to bet on Palantir.
This article was written by
Disclosure: I/we have no stock, option or similar derivative position in any of the companies mentioned, and no plans to initiate any such positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.