by Tom Taulli | January 30, 2014 3:32 pm
It’s been a long road since Blackstone’s (BX) IPO back in June 2007. The firm pulled off the transaction near the peak of the private equity bubble. But lately, BX stock has gotten its grove back, moving beyond its $31 offering price.
Investors may want to be cautious, however — at least for the short run.
True, BX posted a strong fourth quarter. Revenues soared by 119% to $2.68 billion, and earnings surged by 129% to $1.35 per share. The Street was looking for revenues of $1.736 billion and earnings of $1.35 per share. In light of this, BX stock popped about 4% in today’s trading.
The main driver? The red-hot IPO market. Keep in mind that BX pulled off four IPOs in the quarter, including such names as Hilton Worldwide (HLT), Extended Stay America (STAY) and its Brixmor Property Group (BRX) last quarter.
At the same time, BX has continued to rack up more assets under management. By the end of last year, they hit a whopping $266 billion, up about 26%.
I’ve been bullish on BX stock for a while. Unlike other private equity operators — like KKR (KKR) and Apollo Global Management (APO) — BX has a broad platform, which covers private equity, hedge funds and real estate. What’s more, BX stock should also benefit from the secular trend towards alternatives investments.
In a low-interest-rate world, institutions are seeking ways to bump up returns, which often this means investing in the kinds of things that Blackstone specializes in. BX has been focused on alternative investments since the late 1980s and has assembled a tremendous team.
However, BX is not a passive operator, and it will get deeply involved in a company’s operations. Just look at PBF Energy (PBF), which the company formed out of several bankrupt refiners back in 2010. In the end, it turned out to be a big win for investors.
And yes, BX stock also sports a nice dividend yield, currently at 3%. In fact, the company increased the Q4 distribution to 58 cents per share, up from 23 cents in the prior quarter.
But while there was little to quibble about with earnings, the fact remains that BX stock is heavily tied to IPO activity. And even though it was strong last year, the dealmaking could face some headwinds in 2014. In the year so far, volatility has ramped up as the Federal Reserve has engaged in “tapering” of its easy monetary policy, and emerging markets have plunged into turmoil. Such factors could make it tough to pull off IPOs.
Besides, the market is generally streaky. It is pretty tough to maintain strong activity for a long period of time. So after a year like 2013, it would be reasonable to see a pull back that would affect BX stock.
So investors should be cautious. Over the next quarter or two, there may be an opportunity to pick up BX stock at a better value, especially if the IPO market begins to cool off.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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