Private equity firm Blackstone Group LP posted a forecast-beating quarterly profit and said it is gearing up for more deals and IPOs as the lending and equity markets recover.
The company, which has immense real estate and private equity assets, has stepped up deal activity in the past few months, including buying Anheuser-Busch InBev's U.S. theme parks for up to $2.7 billion. It is also considering initial public offerings for a number of its companies.
"We see great opportunities to buy assets from motivated sellers," Blackstone Chief Operating Officer Tony James said on a conference call. He said Blackstone has $27 billion of "dry powder" -- capital available for investment.
It is the latest sign of improvement in the private equity industry, which has struggled to keep portfolio companies healthy during the recession and has had limited access to financing for new deals.
On Thursday the biggest leveraged buyout this year was struck: Blackstone rival TPG and the Canada Pension Plan agreed to buy IMS Health Inc for $4 billion.
Blackstone's third-quarter earnings before income taxes, noncash charges for vesting equity-based compensation, and amortization of intangible assets -- a measure it calls "economic net income" (ENI) -- were $278.4 million, compared with a loss of $509.3 million a year earlier.
On an after-tax basis, ENI was 25 cents a share. Analysts expected, on average, 15 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S/.
Blackstone shares rose 6 percent to $14.74 in morning trading. The shares have doubled in price this year, and the company is currently valued at about $15.6 billion. It went public in June 2007 at $31 a share.
Rival hedge fund and private equity firm Fortress Investment Group LLC posted a quarterly loss on Friday, and its shares sank 3.5 percent.
WORST IS OVER
Blackstone Chief Executive Stephen Schwarzman said in a press release that the worst is over, although a recovery in the economy could be "gradual and uneven."
"We see many opportunities to deploy our substantial available capital," he said. The value of Blackstone's private equity portfolio rose by 5 percent in the third quarter, although the value of its real estate portfolio fell by 0.4 percent.
Blackstone prefers to focus on ENI because of the big payouts associated with its more than $4 billion initial public offering. On a GAAP basis, its third-quarter net loss was $176 million, compared with a loss of $340 million a year earlier.
The company said it would pay its regular quarterly distribution of 30 cents a share to unitholders.
(Additional reporting by Paritosh Bansal) (Editing by John Wallace and Steve Orlofsky