Turmoil in the financial markets hit Blackstone Group in the first quarter, with the world’s largest alternative asset manager reporting a 77% plunge in profits.
Blackstone said Thursday that earnings fell to $150 million, or 23 cents per share, from $629.4 million, or $1 per share, a year earlier. Economic net income (ENI), reflecting unrealized gains as well as cash earnings, declined to $371 million, or 31 cents per share, from an all-time high $1.62 billion, or $1.37 per share one year ago.
Analysts had expected ENI per share to drop to 37 cents in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“The first quarter was a roller coaster for equity and debt markets,” Blackstone Chief Executive Stephen Schwarzman said on a conference call. “The market tantrum in the first part of the year resulted in lots of dislocation, some of which has normalized, some of which has not.”
Blackstone shares have rebounded in recent weeks from a two-year closing low of $23.02 on Feb. 11, but they were down more than 4%, at $28.19, in trading on Thursday.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the volatility in the markets has made it difficult for Blackstone to sell stakes in the companies it owns and it has weighed on the value of its investments in energy-company debt. As a result, the amount of cash returned to investors fell sharply.
The earnings report is also consistent with the slowdown in private equity dealmaking this year. “Spooked by tumbling oil prices and scuppered financing for a handful of takeovers late last year, the market for high-yield bonds and loans, the lifeblood of private equity, has struggled to recover, putting a dampener on business,” Reuters said.
Blackstone’s private-equity business generated $2.1 billion on the sale of older investments in the first quarter, compared with $3.3 billion a year earlier. The highly profitable real estate unit sold $3.5 billion worth of holdings, down from $9.1 billion one year ago.
But investors still gave Blackstone more cash to manage, with assets under management increasing 11% to a record $343.7 billion.