Carlyle earnings: It’s all about the distributions

May 15, 2012, 3:11 PM UTC

Carlyle’s co-founders

FORTUNE — Private equity firm The Carlyle Group (CG) this morning released its first quarterly earnings since going public, reporting $179 million in distributable earnings for the first quarter. It also reported $3.8 billion of net proceeds to fund investors.

What’s particularly interesting here isn’t so much the specific numbers, so much as what they represent. Carlyle rivals like The Blackstone Group (BX) and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) typically highlight a figure called “Economic Net Income,” which they believe best reflects their overall earnings — by trying to include both fee income, private equity distributions and changes to underlying portfolio valuations.

Carlyle, on the other hand, believes its primary business is to generate returns for limited partners in its investment funds and that all other income (such as fees) is ultimately derived from such income.

Carlyle also asks analysts to view its earnings more on an annual basis than on a quarterly one, given that distributions can be notoriously chunky, but has not given any thought to eschewing quarterly earnings calls.

Carlyle does report ENI — $392 million for Q1, which is a 54% increase over the prior quarter and a 26% decrease from Q1 2011. It also reported a 9% increase in value to its carry funds.

For context, Blackstone reported $432.3 million in Q1 ENI, KKR reported $727.2 million and Apollo Global Management (APO) reported $462 million.

Finally, Carlyle also said that it invested $1.5 billion of equity capital in Q1 and raised $2 billion in new fund capital. That latter figure does not include soft commitments for Carlyle’s new North American buyout fund, which is being marketed with a $10 billion target capitalization.

The Carlyle Group went public earlier this month at $22 per share, and closed trading yesterday at $21.03 per share.

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