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Blackstone's scale offers advantage in challenging deal market

Blackstone Group Inc.'s biggest advantage is its scale in an investment environment where it's hard to find interesting opportunities, Chairman and CEO Stephen Schwarzman said during the alternative asset manager's third-quarter earnings call.

The ability to do very large transactions is helpful when sourcing targets, Schwarzman said when asked how the firm differentiates itself from its competitors when sourcing deals.

Blackstone is also "increasingly thematic" in the way it deploys its capital. "In a world where economic growth is pretty muted and multiples are high, what you want to find are sectors you have real conviction around," Schwarzman said.

Citing global logistics as an example, he said the firm has bought over 1 billion square feet around the world in the past nine years and made further plays this year. In September, it acquired a U.S. logistics portfolio from GLP Pte. Ltd. for $18.7 billion, and paid $5.9 billion for the industrial real estate assets and affiliated industrial operating platform of diversified real estate investment trust Colony Capital Inc.

Live entertainment is another area of interest. "Even though many things are moving online, people still need physical activities, things they want to do," Schwarzman said. The firm announced it would acquire attractions operator Merlin Entertainments PLC for £5.91 billion alongside KIRKBI A/S and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in June. It later agreed to acquire a 65% controlling stake in family-oriented entertainment resorts owner and operator Great Wolf Resorts Inc. from affiliates of private equity firm Centerbridge Partners LP. Blackstone and Centerbridge will form a new $2.9 billion joint venture to own the company.

Blackstone's four flagship funds had raised $65 billion of the expected $67 billion collective total, as of the end of the third quarter. Investment periods have launched for private equity secondaries, global real estate, and European real estate, with the firm's global private equity fund expected to be launched in the coming quarters, CFO Michael Chae said.

Total assets under management rose 21% year-over-year, sitting at $554 billion at quarter-end. The firm expects capital inflows of approximately $190 billion for the second half of 2018 and full year 2019, President Jonathan Gray added.