Friday, June 22, 2007

Blackstone Shares Surge In Opening Trade

The Financial Times reports:

Blackstone Group shares on Friday jumped 14.8 per cent on the US private equity group's first day of trading in a strong performance that could encourage its arch-rival Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to follow suit within weeks.

After pricing the landmark offering at $31 a unit on Thursday night, Blackstone saw its share price soar to $35.58 and its market value increase to about $38bn by noon.

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Blackstone's sparkling debut on the New York Stock Exchange shows how investor demand for the most high-profile Wall Street listing in years remained strong in spite of doubts about the company's valuation and a political backlash against the industry.

KKR was closely watching the market reaction on Friday. Having considered a stock market debut for months and held advanced discussions with investment banks that would underwrite a possible listing, KKR could move within weeks towards a filing with US regulators, these people said. However, no decision had been made and Blackstone's market performance would have to be judged over a longer period, they warned.

Other US private equity groups, including Apollo Management, Carlyle and TPG Capital, have also been considering listings.

Steve Schwarzman, Blackstone's 60-year-old chief executive, owns a 23 per cent stake in the company, worth about $10bn after the share price jump.

Mr Schwarzman extracted $677m from the listing while Pete Peterson, the 81-year-old senior chairman, received a pay-out of about $1.88bn.

Blackstone benefited from high demand for its units in spite of significant doubts about the company's valuation.

In addition to concerns that the global private equity boom could be ending amid rising interest rates, a serious political challenge to the listing emerged last week when Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley, the most powerful members of the Senate finance committee, introduced legislation that would significantly raise Blackstone's tax bill in 2012.

Other US politicians kept up the pressure this week, with Jim Webb, the Democratic senator from Virginia, questioning the national security implications of Blackstone's sale of a $3bn stake to the Chinese government.

House Democrats on Friday introduced legislation to increase the tax on profits from private equity deals.