Blackstone's fourth-quarter earnings surge on strong asset sales

FILE PHOTO: Blackstone Group CEO and Co-Founder Steve Schwarzman speaks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York, U.S., November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Gary He/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Blackstone Group Inc, the world’s largest manager of alternative assets, said on Wednesday its fourth-quarter distributable earnings rose 60% year-on-year driven by a surge in asset sales across its private equity and real estate business lines that was partly offset by compensation expenses.

Distributable earnings – cash available for paying dividends to shareholders – totaled $1.46 billion, up from $914 million a year earlier. This translated into distributable earnings per share of $1.13, outperforming analysts’ average estimate of 89 cents, according to financial data provider Refinitiv. During the quarter, Blackstone completed the $14.6 billion sale of BioMed Realty Trust, America’s largest private owner of medical office buildings, and the divestment of its 36% shareholding in British insurer and annuity provider Rothesay Life. A sharp rise in investment income helped Blackstone report a net income of $748.9 million under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), up 55% from the previous year.

Blackstone said its private equity portfolio appreciated 10.6% in the quarter, compared with an 11.7% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 stock index over the same period. Opportunistic and core real estate funds rose 4.3% and 5.5% respectively.

Blackstone’s total assets under management rose to $618.6 billion, up from $584.4 billion in the previous quarter, driven by strong fundraising. It ended the quarter with $147.7 billion of unspent capital.

Blackstone said it would pay a quarterly dividend of 96 cents per share.

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