The Carlyle Group returned $7.5 billion to its investors in 2010, according to the private equity firm’s annual report to clients issued on Monday. It has already returned $6.4 billion to its investors in the first quarter of 2011.

In terms of other highlights of the document, the private equity major invested $7 billion last year, a third more than in 2009, as buyouts surged. Carlyle committed $3 billion to deals which closed in the first quarter of this year. In 2009, Carlyle had invested $5.2 billion.

It is also adding or expanding non-buyout businesses to diversify profits ahead of a potential IPO.

The firm is considering an IPO, co-founder William Conway said in December last year. Incidentally, Blackstone Group, KKR and Apollo Global Management have gone public. Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity company, has gained 57 per cent during the past 12 months.

Carlyle agreed in January to buy AlpInvest Partners (a Dutch money manager which oversees about €32 billion ($45 billion) in private equity funds) to expand its asset management operations.

The firm also boosted its structured credit offerings, established an energy mezzanine team and purchased a majority stake in Claren Road Asset Management, a hedge fund with $5 billion in assets under management.

Carlyle raised $4.2 billion in commitments from investors last year, according to the report. The money was spread across six funds and co-investment deals with limited partners. Many of those funds lost value during 2008 and 2009, preventing them from making new commitments to private equity.

The firm returned a record $6.4 billion in deal profits to clients in the first quarter, after distributing $7.5 billion last year. Carlyle said that it had completed a total of 13 IPOs in 2010 and the first quarter of this year, using those offerings to pare debt or distribute profits to investors.

“The past year has been a period of exciting change and growth at Carlyle with new people, new geographies and new businesses. Our global market strategies team has deepened and broadened its product offering. It’s been 24 years since we started Carlyle, but with so much opportunity before us, each day is a new beginning,” co-founder David Rubenstein said in a statement.

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