January 30, 2020 / 12:54 PM / 19 days ago

Blackstone quarterly profit rises on asset sales, fee revenue

(Reuters) - Blackstone Group Inc (BX.N), the world’s largest alternative asset manager, said on Thursday fourth-quarter distributable earnings rose 27% year-on-year, as strong growth in its real estate and hedge funds businesses offset declines in private equity and credit divisions.

Distributable earnings - the cash available for paying dividends to shareholders - came in at $914 million in the quarter, translating to 72 cents per share, higher than the 67 cents per share that analysts forecast on average, according to data compiled by Refinitiv.

During the quarter, Blackstone sold off its remaining 10.8% stake in Invitation Homes Inc (INVH.N), the largest single-family rental home operator in the United States, raking in more than $1.7 billion.

The buyout firm also completed the sale of its 61% stake in Swedish property firm Hembla AB to German real estate company Vonovia SE (VNAn.DE) for about $1.3 billion.

Blackstone said its private equity portfolio was up 1.5% in the quarter, even as the benchmark S&P 500 stock index .SPX rose 8.5% over the same period. Opportunistic funds and core real estate funds rose 4.7% and 2.9% in the quarter, respectively.

The New York-based firm said fee-related earnings, the amount gained from management fees and a key component of its distributable earnings, rose 27% year-on-year to $551.8 million.

Total assets under management rose to $571.1 billion in the quarter, up from $554 billion three months earlier. Blackstone said it would pay a quarterly distribution of 61 cents per share, totalling $1.95 per share for the year.

Blackstone said it expects to raise up to $100 billion through funds spanning several strategies in 2020, including life sciences, Asia private equity, real estate debt, infrastructure secondaries and European direct lending.

“We’ve launched fundraising for our second core private equity vehicle and expect a significant first close in the next few months,” Blackstone Chief Financial Officer Michael Chae told reporters on a conference call. “We’ve also started raising our new growth equity and impact funds, and later this year, we’ll start raising our second Asia private equity and fourth credit mezzanine funds.”

Blackstone shares were down 2.2% at $61.27 on Thursday morning.

Despite record-high U.S. public markets driving up asset prices, Blackstone said it sees numerous opportunities to deploy its unspent capital, which reached $151.1 billion at the end of December.

Blackstone peer Apollo Global Management LLC (APO.N) also reported a big jump in fourth-quarter distributable earnings on Thursday.

Reporting by Chibuike Oguh in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis

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