(Adds comments from Blackstone president and analyst, share reaction)
By Greg Roumeliotis
April 20 (Reuters) - Blackstone Group LP, the largest manager of private equity and real estate assets, reported a bigger-than-expected jump in quarterly earnings on Thursday after the Wall Street rally helped it realize record proceeds from sales of its holdings.
Stock prices rose on hopes of policy changes under the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Blackstone co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman is an economic adviser to Trump and chairs his strategic and policy forum.
“I don’t know what the Trump administration policies really are, or what will happen in Washington,” Blackstone President Tony James told reporters on a conference call. “We are seeing some benefits from the greater confidence the business community has.”
Blackstone said the sale of assets for top dollar allowed it to pay its second-highest quarterly dividend ever at 87 cents per common unit.
Economic net income per share, which reflects the mark-to-market valuation of Blackstone’s portfolio, more than doubled to 82 cents from 31 cents a year earlier.
This surpassed the analysts’ average estimate of 68 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“Greater than forecast performance fees drove the beat,” Jefferies LLC analysts wrote in a research note.
Blackstone shares were up 1.4 percent at $30.47 in the early afternoon.
Distributable earnings, which show actual cash available to pay dividends, rose 212 percent to $1.23 billion in the first quarter.
Blackstone’s private equity business showed the most growth in economic net income at 291 percent, and its buyout funds appreciated 6.9 percent.
The real estate business posted an 86 percent rise in economic net income, with a 5.7 percent appreciation for its “opportunistic” real estate funds.
Economic net income increased 263 percent at Blackstone’s credit business and 217 percent for its hedge fund of funds.
During the quarter, Blackstone divested its 25 percent stake in hotel operator Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc and took Invitation Homes Inc public for $1.8 billion in the second-largest initial public offering a real estate investment trust.
Assets under management were up 7 percent at $368.2 billion on March 31 from a year earlier. Fee-earning assets under management rose 15 percent to $280.2 billion. (Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley and Lisa Von Ahn)