Blackstone’s Oil ‘Scramble’ Doesn’t Materialize as Sellers Balk

Blackstone President Tony James
Tony James, President and Chief Operating Officer of Blackstone Group LP. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Three months ago, Blackstone Group LP’s energy dealmakers were “scrambling” to invest in oil companies, according to its president, Tony James. No longer.

“We thought there would be a lot to do,” James, who runs New York-based Blackstone with Chief Executive Officer Steve Schwarzman, said on Thursday. “That really hasn’t developed. We haven’t put as much new money out as we hoped or expected.”

Oil producers, which suffered as the commodity’s price plunged as much as 59 percent after its June peak last year, have been able to access capital at attractive valuations rather than needing the rescue financing that Blackstone expected, James said.

“They’ve been able to go out and raise a lot of debt and, in some cases, equity publicly at values that we wouldn’t touch,” James, 64, said while speaking on a conference call with reporters discussing first-quarter earnings. “Public markets took away a lot of opportunity.”

Blackstone, Carlyle Group LP, Apollo Global Management LLC and KKR & Co. collected about $30 billion in the past 18 months for energy investments. Since November -- when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to keep its production unchanged, resulting in a further decline in oil -- the firms have invested in energy debt and struck agreements to fund drilling costs, while none has done a U.S. leveraged buyout.

“There’s still a lot of optimism oil prices are going to bounce back, and sellers are sort of biding their time in the hopes that they don’t have to face the music,” said James.

Blackstone has recently invested more in power projects, both conventional and renewable, than in oil and gas companies, he said. The firm has more than $10 billion in dry powder for energy deals.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE