Tech leads the way for Darktrace’s potential IPO

Tech leads the way for Darktrace’s potential IPO

Darktrace plc, a world-leading provider of artificial intelligence (AI), announced on 12 April 2021, its intention to float on the premium segment of the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange (LSE). With an estimated value of around £3bn, the IPO is likely to be a FTSE inclusion if successful and could signify a bounce back for the LSE after tech giant Deliveroo failed to meet expectations on its IPO earlier this month.

If Darktrace’s IPO does go ahead, it will contribute to the growing trend of flotations in the tech sector and represent a strong example of the types of companies which have thrived during the current global pandemic. Unlike other cyber security technology companies, the Cambridge-engineered platform gets to know its customer’s businesses and customer's ‘"normal" digital operating state’, which ultimately leads to neutralising threats across digital businesses. Darktrace is at the forefront of revolutionising cyber security stating in its registration document that ‘Approximately 74% of Darktrace’s trial deployments in 2020 detected serious vulnerabilities that very often had evaded other defences and quickly demonstrate to prospective customers the comprehensive nature of the AI driven technology.’

In a climate of COVID-19 and a fourth industrial revolution, Darktrace’s IPO comes at an optimal time for the business. With its tech expertise, Darktrace had already been able to help 4,700 customers, from Rolls-Royce to the NHS. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, its success continued to escalate with a 45.3% growth in revenue in 2020. Its business model has proven resilient due to its product offering, which on short notice was also able to assist its customers with the shift in working patterns and develop its C-sensor technology, to install onto customers’ employee laptops to mimic the AI driven protection and detection received in their office space.

In our  Market Tracker trend update: IPOs in Q3 2020, we noted that since the dawn of the pandemic, there was a boom in IPOs in the e-commerce and tech industry. Notably, in 2020 we saw The Hut Group, which became the second biggest IPO by market capitalisation last year, and Guild Esports come to market, as well as Joint Stock Company Kaspi, which revived IPO plans that it had postponed almost a year before. This continued into 2021, with Moonpig, Dr. Martens and recently, Deliveroo listing on the Main Market of the LSE. As a retail bootmaker, Dr. Martens attributed its success to the growth in e-commerce facilitated by the pandemic, whilst tech companies Moonpig and Deliveroo were able build on their existing business model, which greatly benefitted from lockdown and site closures, and therefore from the boom in online shopping.  These trends will be further explored in our upcoming Q1 2021 IPO update.

Deliveroo’s post-listing performance fell well below expectations following scrutiny by major investors over its business model in relation to the founder control afforded by its dual-class share structure, as well as working practices concerning its riders (see: Deliveroo pays the price for employment status of its riders). Amid a push to attract investment to London, the LSE cannot afford another unsuccessful float. However, attention has already been drawn to Darktrace’s shareholders, provoking questions over its choice to float on the London market as opposed to the US. The largest shareholder, Mike Lynch, with a 39.5% stake set to be worth almost £1.2bn at flotation, has been accused of fraudulently inflating the value of the company, Autonomy, which he co-founded and is currently fighting extradition to the US. Meanwhile, shareholder Sushovan Hussain, the former Autonomy finance chief, was sentenced to five years in a US prison for fraud relating to the HP deal in 2019. With already negative press surrounding the company, it is yet to be seen whether its business model is enough to attract investor attention and keep this IPO afloat.

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