Blackstone Tops Views, Launches RE Fund

The publicly traded megafund Blackstone Group said the value of its investments increased sharply in the fourth quarter, boosting quarterly earnings and beating analysts’ forecasts, according to Reuters, a sister news service to Buyouts.

Fourth quarter economic net income, or ENI, climbed 55.9 percent to $513 million, up from $329 million a year earlier.

Adjusted ENI was 46 cents per share, up from 29 cents a year ago and 16 cents above analysts’ average forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

ENI strips out items such as noncash charges for vesting equity-based compensation and the amortization of intangible assets. It is the measure that private equity firms prefer to report and that analysts follow.

Blackstone said that in 2010 it made nearly $10 billion of new investments. At the end of the year it had $30 billion of uninvested capital, or “dry powder,” it said.

It recently raised its latest buyout fund—called BCP VI—which reached nearly $15 billion as of Jan. 7.

The company is paying a quarterly distribution to shareholders of 32 cents a share, bringing its full-year distribution for 2010 to 62 cents a share.

Blackstone also said it expects to start fundraising for its next real estate fund this year, which could be around the same size as its $10 billion 2008 fund.

“Real estate had a great year,” said Tony James, Blackstone’s COO, on a conference call to discuss the company’s earnings. Blackstone invested nearly $5 billion in real estate in 2010, he said.

Its current real estate fund, Blackstone Real Estate Partners VI, is about 70 percent invested and as a result it will start fundraising for its next real estate fund this year, BREP VII, James said.

“Our last fund was $10 billion and our target would be to do something similar,” said James. Blackstone’s current real estate fund was a $10.9 billion fund, which it finished raising in 2008.

Blackstone said the value of its real estate funds rose 19 percent for the quarter and 69 percent for the year, while its private equity portfolio rose 3 percent for the quarter and 29 percent for the full year.

In total, the firm has about $30 billion of capital to invest.

Megan Davies is a Reuters correspondent in New York.