February 1, 2019 / 12:00 PM / 5 months ago

KKR reports 23.5 pct rise in fourth-quarter earnings

NEW YORK, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Private equity firm KKR & Co Inc reported a 23.5 percent year-on-year rise in distributable earnings on Friday, as it sold down stakes in industrial machinery maker Gardner Denver Holdings Inc and optical retailer National Vision.

After-tax distributable earnings (DE) - the cash available for paying dividends - totaled $460.1 million for the last three months of 2018, compared with $372.6 million a year earlier, KKR said.

This bucks the trend set on Thursday by private equity rivals Apollo Global Management LLC and Blackstone Group LP, which reported year-on-year drops of 20.4 percent and 42 percent, respectively, in DE.

"We had a solid finish to a strong year, generating one of the highest distributable earnings quarters in our history," the company's co-chairmen and chief executives, Henry R. Kravis and George R. Roberts, said in a statement.

Under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), KKR reported a net loss attributable to the firm of $393 million for the quarter. Apollo and Blackstone lost $196.4 million and $10.9 million, respectively, as the portfolios of all three firms had to weather a steep sell-off in equity markets.

KKR's earnings were helped by record revenue of $232 million at its capital markets unit, a business it has focused on expanding in recent years. The unit booked healthy fees from transactions involving two KKR deals, BMC Software and Envision Healthcare.

KKR said DE per share came in at 55 cents for the quarter, up from 45 cents a year earlier.

Its assets under management were flat at around $195 billion compared with three months earlier, with fundraising activity in the quarter partly offset by decreases in the value of its private equity and credit investments, the firm said.

The benchmark S&P 500 index suffered its worst quarter in more than seven years at the end of 2018, a blow to private equity firms which use public peers to value their private investments.

Assets under management at Apollo and Blackstone rose during the quarter. (Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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