KKR Confirms NYSE Plans, Will Pay Dividend

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Euronext-listed private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR.AS) on Wednesday moved another step closer to gaining a long-sought New York Stock Exchange listing, as it said it elected to seek such a move.

It also reported that it will pay a distribution to its shareholders of 8 cents per unit.

KKR closed a long-awaited deal in October to buy its Amsterdam-quoted fund, becoming a Euronext-listed company and completing the first step toward an expected move to the NYSE.

It said on Wednesday it elected to seek the NYSE listing, meaning that it, and the fund it combined with, will use “reasonable efforts” to implement the listing.

That will see it prepare and file a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission “as promptly as practicable”.

It also reported earnings for the fourth quarter.

Economic net income, a measure used by private equity firms to report earnings, was $515.3 million for the quarter, compared with a pro-forma figure of $822.7 million provided the previous quarter, KKR said.

KKR provided pro-forma earnings for the prior three quarters, but not for the fourth quarter of 2008.

The decline in the last quarter was partly due to a lower level of unrealized gains in its private equity portfolio during the fourth quarter, KKR said.

Private equity firms revalue their portfolios each quarter and thus can have volatile earnings. The valuations are partly based on how publicly traded portfolio company peers are faring and by how much the market has moved.

KKR disclosed that it is valuing a number of investments significantly above cost, such as retailer Dollar General, hospital firm HCA and media company Nielsen. KKR took Dollar General (DG.N) public in November and HCA paid its owners a $1.75 billion dividend in January.

However, it is valuing a number of its investments, including medical firm Biomet, energy company Energy Future Holdings and credit card processor First Data, below cost.

KKR’s investment pace also picked up during the year. It invested about $600 million during the first half of the year, and invested about $1.5 billion in the second half.

Assets under management were $52.2 billion.

KKR will hold a call to discuss the earnings on Thursday.

NYSE AMBITION

New York-based KKR had been planning for two years to follow rival Blackstone Group LP (BX.N) in becoming a publicly traded company, but was held up by market turmoil.

The deal to become a publicly traded entity involved combining with KKR Private Equity Investors, a Guernsey limited partnership traded on Euronext and known as KPE.

It said at the time of the combination that after KKR and KPE combined, either KKR or KPE would have the right to require the other to use “reasonable best efforts” to list the combined business in the United States.

KKR originally announced plans to list on the NYSE via a traditional initial public offering in July 2007, a month after Blackstone went public and just before the markets started to tumble.

KKR later proposed the more complex method of going public and in June it formally withdrew the traditional IPO plan but kept the door open for a NYSE move in the future.

Rival Blackstone is scheduled to report earnings on Thursday.

By Megan Davies