Blackstone Plans to Convert to a Corporation as Assets Top $500 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- Blackstone Group LP’s shares soared the most in two years after announcing plans to convert to a corporation from a publicly traded partnership, an instant reward from Stephen Schwarzman’s latest gambit to draw in a wider investor base.

Changing the company’s structure opens up the stock for inclusion in indexes and will increase the firm’s “ability to reach a dramatically larger audience,” Schwarzman, the chief executive officer, said Thursday in a Bloomberg Television interview.

“We’d handicapped ourselves by our corporate form,” he said. “We’ll make this easier for retail investors.”

Private equity firms including Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative asset manager, have seen their stock prices lag since going public even as investors have poured money into their buyout, credit, real estate and other funds.

Blackstone has epitomized the industry’s fundraising muscle. The New York-based company also reported Thursday that its assets under management crossed half a trillion, to $512 billion, for the first time.

KKR & Co. and Ares Management Corp. announced conversion plans last year following the passage of a U.S. tax law, which cut the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. The switch makes it possible for these firms to be included in indexes, which could potentially boost stock valuations and win more mutual fund and ETF investors. It also eliminates the need for investors to file cumbersome K-1 tax forms.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says

Blackstone’s announced conversion to a corporation aligns with the company’s size, growth and appetite for fee earnings, in our view, expanding its global base via inclusion in major market indexes and ushering in demand from long-only investors and ETFs. The drawback -- worthwhile, as we see it -- is a modest increase in tax cost.
Paul Gulberg, Industry Analyst
Click here to read the research

Blackstone studied the impact of the conversion on its competitors. KKR’s stock initially outperformed its biggest rivals after its May 2018 announcement that it was switching to a C-corp. Shares of Blackstone popped toward the end of last year and have beat KKR since revealing its conversion plans through Wednesday.

Blackstone’s shares jumped 6.4 percent at 10:11 am in New York, the most since May 2017. The stock has risen about 21 percent this year through Wednesday.

Blackstone said during a conference call with investors that it expects the conversion will make it vastly easier to own its stock, estimating it will initially remove restrictions on at least $4.5 trillion of investor capital in the U.S. That would substantially close the gap between Blackstone’s valuation and that of other top companies.

Blackstone Plans to Convert to a Corporation as Assets Top $500 Billion

Still, inclusion in indexes isn’t guaranteed because there is some subjectivity in the decision, said Gerald O’Hara, an analyst at Jefferies.

“You can check all the boxes, but still not get included,” he said.

Blackstone said it expects the conversion to be effective as of July 1.

Watch Blackstone CEO’s interview on Bloomberg Television here.

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