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What Does Palantir's New Space Force Deal Mean for Investors?

By Leo Sun - May 27, 2021 at 8:37AM

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The data mining firm wins another government contract -- but it probably won't silence the bears.

Palantir (PLTR 5.20%) recently announced it will support the U.S. Space Force and Air Force's "critical missions" with cloud-based data services in a new $32.5 million contract. The new deal will expand its existing partnerships with both agencies.

Space Force will use Palantir's services to support its Space Command and Control program at the National Space Defense Center and the Combined Space Operations Center. The Air Force will use Palantir's analytics tools to support its "Project Brown Heron" data gathering platform.

Palantir will also crunch data for NORAD-NORTHCOM's Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) upgrades, which focus on "ingesting and modeling high-scale data" for planning and executing military missions.

This sounds like another positive development for Palantir's government-facing business, but will it bring some bulls back to a stock that lost about 20% of its value over the past three months?

A mission control operator monitors a mission from a tablet.

Image source: Getty Images.

Why did Palantir's stock tumble?

Palantir, which derives its name from the all-seeing orbs in The Lord of the Rings, enables government agencies and companies to gather and analyze data from disparate sources.

Its Gotham platform mainly serves U.S. government agencies, and it boldly declared it would become the "default operating system for data access across the U.S. government" in its S-1 filing last year. Its Foundry platform provides similar tools to private companies and organizations.

Palantir generated 56% of its revenue from government customers last year, while the remaining 44% came from commercial customers. Here's how fast those businesses grew in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.

Revenue Growth (YOY)

FY 2020

Q1 2021

Government

77%

76%

Commercial

22%

19%

Total

47%

49%

Data source: Palantir. YOY = Year over year.

Palantir's growth rates are impressive, but three issues are holding the stock back. First, it trades at nearly 30 times this year's sales, which could limit its upside potential as the market rotates from growth to value stocks. It expects its annual revenue to grow at least 30% between 2021 and 2025, but those long-term estimates might not justify its frothy valuations.

Second, Palantir is unprofitable on a GAAP basis. Its net loss widened from $580 million in 2019 to $1.2 billion in 2020, then widened again year over year from $54 million to $123 million in the first quarter.

Lastly, some investors believe the long-term growth potential of Palantir's government business is limited. They claim it must expand its commercial business to grow into its valuations, but that it faces too many entrenched competitors in the AI-powered enterprise analytics space.

Strengthening its core business, but not silencing the bears

Palantir's new Space Force and Air Force deal will complement its growing list of new and expanded U.S. government contracts, which already include deals with the U.S. Army, the Food and Drug Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

That's good news for Palantir since its revenue from U.S. government agencies surged 83% year over year last quarter and accounted for the lion's share of its government revenue. But it also doesn't really counter any of the bearish arguments against the stock.

Palantir's government deals also remain opaque and controversial. Its technology was reportedly used to locate and kill Osama Bin Laden in 2011, but ICE also deployed its tools to track and deport undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration.

That mixed reputation -- which sparked protests in the past -- might prevent some companies from using Palantir's Foundry platform, especially when less controversial companies like C3.ai, Alteryx, and salesforce.com all offer comparable data-crunching services.

The key takeaways

I personally own a small position in Palantir, since I'm intrigued by its long-term growth potential. But the latest Air Force and Space Force deal only represents 2% of its projected revenue this year, so it won't move the needle or resolve its most pressing problems.

 

Leo Sun owns shares of Palantir Technologies Inc. and Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alteryx, C3.ai, Inc., Palantir Technologies Inc., and Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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