Palantir Technologies (PLTR 1.10%) has not been a public company for long, but it has already given shareholders a month to remember. According to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, the stock climbed 167.6% in November as investor excitement about this data analytics company hit a frenzied pace.
Palantir, a software and data company co-founded by Peter Thiel, had a modest late-September public debut. It gathered momentum in the ensuing weeks.
The company got some positive news in November, including well-regarded investor Steve Cohen disclosing a stake and the U.S. Army choosing Palantir for a new network modernization contract. There wasn't any huge, company-changing news during the month to explain the move.
It's been hard to get a read on Palantir from the beginning. Thanks to its connections to Thiel and the credit it got for helping the Pentagon analyze data and find Osama bin Laden, the company has long held near-legendary status among government services execs.
But that same government work, which also includes consulting with immigration agencies at the border and helping the military pick targets for drone strikes, has also made it a target of criticism. There was some fear prior to the offering that the controversies would limit the appeal of the stock.
So far, the bulls have been in charge.
Palantir's month would have been even better if not for a Nov. 27 warning from a prominent short-seller. Citron Research said that the shares were "no longer a stock but a full casino," predicting they would fall back to Earth.
Indeed, it is hard to know what to make of Palantir right now. The tech is impressive, and the government business has the potential to grow quickly, but Palantir is currently valued at about 50 times expected 2020 revenue. By comparison, other publicly traded government services companies trade at multiples below three times sales. Even commercial-focused data companies usually don't trade at such lofty valuations.
Valuation is a lousy reason to sell a growth stock. In months to come, Palantir might show that the investor enthusiasm in November was justified. At the moment, however, it's easy to imagine Citron's prediction of future turbulence coming true.