Blackstone’s first-quarter earnings surge 63%

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside The Blackstone Group headquarters in Manhattan, New York

By Chibuike Oguh

(Reuters) -Blackstone Inc said on Thursday its first-quarter distributable earnings jumped 63% as a strong performance from its real estate and credit businesses offset a weak showing from its hedge funds unit.

The world’s largest manager of alternative assets saw distributable earnings, which represent the cash used to pay dividends to shareholders, rise to $1.9 billion from $1.2 billion a year earlier.

That resulted in distributable earnings per share of $1.55, which exceeded the average estimate of $1.06 per share of analysts compiled by Refinitiv.

Blackstone said it changed the way it accounts for the fee-related performance revenue at its real estate income trust business, booking such earnings quarterly rather than annually. That helped to boost its overall earnings beyond what analysts had expected.

“This will likely have the effect of making ongoing quarterly fee-related earnings somewhat higher, but also somewhat more volatile,” Oppenheimer analysts wrote in a note to investors on Thursday.

For its quarterly fund performance, real estate opportunistic and core plus funds appreciated by 10.3% and 7.9%, respectively. Private credit funds gained 1.7% while its private equity portfolio rose 2.8%. That compares with a decline of nearly 5% for the benchmark S&P 500 stock index.

Blackstone generated $23.2 billion in proceeds from asset divestments across its portfolio. That included the sale of its majority stake in medical services provider Apria Healthcare to Owens & Minor Inc in a $1.6 billion take-private deal.

During the quarter, Blackstone spent $22.8 billion on new acquisitions, including its $6.4 billion takeover of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts and a $5.8 billion deal to take real estate income trust Preferred Apartment Communities Inc private.

Blackstone said earnings at its hedge funds unit, the world’s largest, fell to $110.8 million, down from $157 million a year earlier, due partly to lower management fees and performance revenues.

Its hedge fund portfolio had a net return of 1% during the quarter compared with a 0.3% decline in the benchmark Fund Weighted Composite Index compiled by hedge fund data provider HFR.

Under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Blackstone reported a net income of $1.22 billion, down 30% from $1.75 billion a year earlier, amid higher compensation expenses and a slowdown in investment income.

Total assets under management rose to a record $915 billion, driven by strong fundraising and bringing Blackstone closer to its goal of managing $1 trillion in assets this year. Unspent capital stood at $139.3 billion.

Blackstone declared a quarterly dividend of $1.32 per share, compared with $0.82 per share in the same quarter last year.

(Reporting by Chibuike Oguh in New York; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Bernadette Baum)