Blackstone reaches record $1 trillion in assets; Q2 earnings slump

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NEW YORK, July 20 (Reuters) – Blackstone Inc (BX.N) said on Thursday it became the first manager of alternative investments such as private equity and real estate to reach $1 trillion in assets, a milestone accompanied by news its second-quarter distributable earnings dropped 39% amid a slump in asset sales.

Blackstone achieved its $1 trillion goal three years ahead of schedule after setting out in 2018 to hit that level by 2026. Its biggest rival, Brookfield Asset Management Ltd (BAM.TO), has $825 billion in assets.

The moment was seminal for Blackstone’s CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who co-founded the New York-based firm in 1985 with just $400,000 in start-up capital.

“Our prospects are accelerating. We never rest on our achievements,” Schwarzman said on an earnings call with analysts on Thursday.

He pegged the size of his industry at $12 trillion in assets and said he saw growth opportunities in private credit and insurance, infrastructure, the energy transition, life sciences, Asia and wealth management for rich individuals.

However, in the second quarter, Blackstone’s distributable earnings, which represent cash available to pay dividends to shareholders, fell to $1.2 billion from nearly $2 billion a year earlier. This resulted in distributable earnings of 93 cents, compared to the average analyst estimate of 92 cents, as compiled by Refinitiv.

Blackstone said its net profit from asset sales plunged 82% to $388.4 million from $2.2 billion in the year-ago period, as higher interest rates, sticky inflation and economic uncertainty have weighed on merger-and-acquisitions activity.

Blackstone shares were down 0.5% at $107.67 on Thursday afternoon in New York. They are up 45% year-to-date, outperforming an 18.5% rise in the S&P 500 Index.

MORE LUCRATIVE

Despite Blackstone’s growth, its size is dwarfed by BlackRock Inc (BLK.N), which Blackstone helped launch in 1988 before parting ways. BlackRock has become the world’s largest asset manager with $9.4 trillion in assets.

However, that comparison does not tell the full story of Blackstone’s performance. Its focus on alternative assets, which are mostly illiquid investments, has limited its customer base because mom-and-pop investors cannot access these as easily as stocks and bonds from traditional managers such as BlackRock.

But alternative investments are typically more lucrative for investors and their managers. This is reflected in Blackstone’s market value of $132 billion, some $20 billion more than BlackRock’s.

Still, Blackstone and its peers have been trying to narrow the asset gap with traditional managers by devising products for retail investors and the wealthy, expanding beyond their usual base of institutional investors like pension funds, insurance firms and sovereign wealth funds.

NEW BANK PARTNERSHIPS

Blackstone is starting to partner with banks whose capacity to lend has been crimped by the U.S. regional banking crisis, which prompted some depositors to flee and institutions to adopt more conservative credit policies.

Blackstone has agreed to or is finalizing five bank partnerships worth $6 billion that will involve lending areas such as home improvement, auto finance and renewable energy, Blackstone President Jonathan Gray said.

Net profit in Blackstone’s real estate unit sank 94% in the second quarter, as limited divestitures, such as the $3.1 billion sale of warehouses to Prologis Inc (PLD.N), generated much less cash than a year ago.

Gray said that “negative sentiment” among investors around commercial real estate that has weighed on BREIT, Blackstone’s flagship real estate investment trust, should abate.

The firm has been exercising its right to block investor withdrawals from BREIT since November, after they exceeded a preset threshold. It has said that redemption requests are gradually declining, albeit not enough for Blackstone to lift the restrictions.

A bright spot in the quarter was Blackstone’s private equity business, which saw a 20% growth in performance fees, driven by secondary share sales of the firm’s stake in London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG.L) and Gates Industrial Corporation (GTES.N).

Under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Blackstone’s net income came in at $601.3 million, versus a net loss of $29.4 million due to a rebound in revenue from performance fees and principal investments.

Blackstone also had about $195 billion of unspent capital and declared a quarterly dividend of 79 cents per share.

Image by: Reuters

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