-- Gained a $600 million commitment from an unnamed city pension fund
-- Plans fundraising for latest private equity fund later this year
-- "Reasonable to expect" five to 10 cents in additional distribution on dividend income
(Updates with executive comments on new pension fund commitment in the seventh paragraph, fundraising plan in the eighth paragraph, outlook for realizations in 13th and 14th paragraphs and updates share price in the last paragraph.)
By Amy Or
Apollo Global Management LLC (>> Apollo Global Management LLC) posted a better than expected 23% rise in first-quarter earnings, driven by an increase in management fees and robust growth in investments.
Its private-equity portfolio companies surged 16% in value in the three months ended March 31, besting the 12% rally in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Portfolio company LyondellBasell Industries NV, for example, rose 34% during the quarter.
Apollo's Class A shares jumped nearly 6% to $12.91 in morning trading, but remain 32% below its $19-a-share initial public offering in March 2011. Apollo's earnings-inspired gains are notable since the broader U.S. equity market was down sharply Tuesday.
Apollo peers KKR & Co. (KKR) recorded 9% portfolio growth, while Blackstone Group L.P.'s (BX) private equity investments rose by 4.9%.
As a result of the asset appreciation, Apollo's private equity assets were valued at $24.6 billion or nearly 50% above its investment cost, as of March 31. Its Fund VI, launched in 2006 and made the bulk of its investments prior to the financial crisis in 2008, crossed the 8% return hurdle, allowing Apollo to take a cut in profits, if gains are sustained.
Apollo Chairman and Chief Executive Leon Black said, "2012 is off to a terrific start in terms of capital formation, capital deployment, and cash distributions for our shareholders."
The firm's assets under management totaled $86.1 billion at the end of the quarter, up from $70 billion a year earlier and $75.22 billion at the end of the fourth quarter. The sum for the first quarter included a $3 billion boost in long-term commitment from the Teachers Retirement System of Texas.
Since the close of the first quarter, the assets have climbed to over $100 billion as Apollo completed the acquisition of investment manager Stone Tower Capital LLC in early April and scored a $600 million commitment from an unnamed city pension fund.
Executives said Apollo is planning to launch a new private equity fund later this year, but didn't specify the fund's size. Apollo's last buyout fund, Fund VII, closed in 2008 with $14.7 billion.
For the first quarter, Apollo's economic net income rose to $462 million, or $1.10 a share, from $377 million or 99 cents a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 78 cents a share.
Private-equity firms consider economic net income a better barometer of performance because it includes unrealized gains and employee compensation. The performance metric also accounts for all units, not just those that are publicly traded.
Under generally accepted accounting principles, the firm reported a profit of $98 million, or 66 cents a share, up from a year-earlier profit of $38.2 million, or 33 cents a share. Total revenue rose 12% to $776.7 million, far better than the $547 million expected by analysts.
Economic net income for its private equity segment rose 10% to $311.2 million in the first quarter.
Apollo President Marc Spilker said if the market environment returns to calmer conditions experienced in the first quarter, there will be more realizations, or asset sales.
"If market worsens, we are well placed to deploy more capital," he said on an earnings conference call.
During the first quarter, the firm placed $1 billion in private equity investments, including the acquisition of global alkylamines producer Taminco Group Holdings. Alkylamines are used as building blocks for chemical products including pharmaceuticals, and other compounds.
The firm, with $7.4 billion in uncalled commitments, or so-called drypowder, as of March 31, has continued to invest in recent weeks.
On Monday, Apollo completed the acquisition of indoor water park operator Great Wolf Resorts Inc. after a heated bidding war in which the buyout firm repeatedly raised its offer and finally paid $7.86 a share, well above its initial bid of $5 each.
Capital markets operations, which include its credit and mezzanine funds and hedge funds, posted a 53% jump in economic net income on higher management fees from its recent acquisition of collateralized loan obligations manager Gulf Stream Asset Management LLC.
Apollo declared a 25 cent distribution a share. Executives said apart from the 7-cent regular distributions, it is "reasonable to expect" an additional five to 10 cents in coming quarters on recurring dividend income from portfolio companies, and more if there are asset sales.
-Amy Or, Dow Jones Newswires, +1 212 416 3142, [email protected]
--Mia Lamar contributed to this article.