Steeped in spycraft, cybersecurity firm Darktrace rockets on London debut


Steeped in spycraft, cybersecurity firm Darktrace rockets on London debut

Darktrace, a cybersecurity company advised by former MI5 and CIA spymasters, leapt more than 40% on its market debut on Friday, delivering a boost to the London market after the spectacular flop of Deliveroo last month.

The company was priced at 250 pence in the initial public offering, giving it a valuation of just over half the original aim of $4 billion. But it rocketed to 352 pence when trading started, well above the 220-280 pence range set by its bankers when its roadshow began on Monday.

Darktrace uses AI to understand IT networks and then detect attacks by identifying unusual behaviour from within. Its advisory board includes a former director general of the British security service, Jonathan Evans, an ex-CIA chief information officer, Alan Wade, and former UK interior minister Amber Rudd.

“Today is just the beginning,” Chief Executive Poppy Gustafsson said.

The loss-making company, which says it’s presently focused on growth rather than profits, was founded in the English university city of Cambridge in 2013. It is backed by entrepreneur Michael Lynch, who was on its board until 2018 and is still an adviser. He and his wife own stakes worth a total of 440 million pounds after the share debut.

Lynch is fighting a U.S. extradition request to face fraud charges related to the sale of Autonomy, a software company he founded and led, to American tech firm Hewlett-Packard.

He is also waiting for the verdict of a multi-billion dollar civil claim by HP at London’s High Court.

Darktrace detailed the risks related to Lynch in its registration documents, including potential liability in relation to allegations of money laundering made by U.S. prosecutors, although the company said the risk of the latter was low.

Lynch denies all the allegations in the cases. He declined to comment on Darktrace.

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