Cyber security company Darktrace plans multibillion London float

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·4 min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05:  Co-Founder and CEO of Darktrace Poppy Gustafsson (L) attends a Q&A with TechCrunch Moderator Natasha Lomas (R) during day 1 of TechCrunch Disrupt London at the Copper Box on December 5, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
Co-Founder and chief executive of Darktrace Poppy Gustafsson, left, attends a Q&A with TechCrunch Moderator Natasha Lomas during day 1 of TechCrunch Disrupt London at the Copper Box on December 5, 2016 in London, England. Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch

A closely-watched UK cyber security company with links to the British intelligence services has confirmed plans to list on the London Stock Exchange, signalling the first major listing since Deliveroo's (ROO.L) bungled float.

Darktrace on Monday said it intended to register for an IPO in London, firing the starting gun on a hotly anticipated float.

Cambridge-based Darktrace was founded in 2013 and grew out of collaborations between the UK intelligence services and the University of Cambridge. The company retains close links to the intelligence community: former MI5 director general Lord Evans and the CIA's former chief information officer, Alan Wade, both sits on its advisory board. Former home secretary Amber Rudd is also an advisor.

Darktrace uses artificial intelligence to build what it calls an "enterprise immune system" that monitors company's computer networks to detect unusual activity and then respond to it. The technology stands in contrast to traditional cyber security software that tries to build a wall around networks to block intruders.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEB 06: The Darktrace cybersecurity software demonstration showed how a global problem (instrusion) can start with just one employee's work station. Jim Penrose is a former NSA employee who is now part of Darktrace, a cybersecurity software company that is opening up an office in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
The Darktrace cybersecurity software demonstration showed how a global problem (instrusion) can start with just one employee's work station. Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

"Darktrace is a global pioneer of self-learning AI," chairman Gordon Hurst said. "As one of Europe's fastest growing technology companies, it has driven impressive growth over the past seven years as it seeks to empower organisations to defend their systems against increasingly complex and aggressive cyber threats.

"Led by a highly experienced management team with deep AI expertise, I believe that Darktrace is uniquely placed to continue to grow, harnessing its innovative technology, leading market position and strong balance sheet to enter new sectors and geographies with its cyber AI platform."

READ MORE: IPO boom powers London Stock Exchange to best first quarter in 15 years

Darktrace had sales of $199.1m (£145m) last year from over 3,800 customers, the company said. Sales have grown at a compound rate of more than 50% over the last two years. The company made an underlying profit of $9m last year.

Darktrace was valued at $3bn in a private fundraising in March and is said to be targeting a $5bn price tag on the public market.

The company said it would look to raise funds for marketing and product development in its London listing. Details of how much the company would look to raise and at what valuation were not given. Existing investors intend to cash out some of their stake in the listing. Darktrace has raised over $200m from backers including private equity giants KKR.

The listing will be cheered by many in the City and Westminster. There had been fears that Deliveroo's recent bungled stock market listing could put off other major tech businesses from listing in London. Shares in the hotly tipped takeaway business sunk 30% on debut and have continued to fall.

READ MORE: Deliveroo IPO flop deals blow to London's tech ambitions

Poppy Gustafsson, chief executive of Darktrace, said: "Our intention to list on the London Stock Exchange marks a major milestone in Darktrace's history of rapid growth, and a historic day for the UK's thriving technology sector.

"Darktrace's success has been built on the shoulders of giants: our world-leading position is testament to the strength of the UK's world-leading science base and long history of mathematical discovery and computing inventions, from Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace to Alan Turing. 

"We are proud to be part of that tradition of British innovation, as the UK becomes a leading global centre for the development of AI."

Darktrace said it intended to list on the premium segment on the London Stock Exchange, which will make it eligible for inclusion in FTSE indexes. The decision stands in contrast to Deliveroo, which opted to swerve a premium listing. The move was criticised by some and partly blamed for the company's poor public market performance. A lack of premium listing meant index and ETF providers avoided buying the stock, creating a smaller pool of buyers.

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