KKR plans to sell shares to public

Private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is going public and will trade on the New York Stock Exchange in the near future.

KKR & Co. LP, the parent of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, is going public and will trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

According to a filing made with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday, the firm known as KKR is seeking to list on the NYSE in the near future.

In the plan, KKR plans to register 204.9 million common units, worth about $2.21 billion US, and will trade in the U.S. under the symbol "KKR." The sale would represent roughly 30 per cent of the company. The company originally sought a U.S. public listing in July 2007, but shelved the idea as the financial crisis unraveled.

It officially withdrew its original plans for an IPO in June 2009, and instead merged with its European arm, now known as KKR Guernsey, and listed the combined company on the Euronext Amsterdam.

Guernsey stockholders will swap their shares for units in the U.S.-listed company. They will hold a 30 per cent stake in the public KKR trading on the NYSE. That would value the buyout firm at roughly $7.5 billion US overall.

KKR Guernsey will be dissolved and cease to trade in Amsterdam after KKR begins trading in New York, the company said. There were about 2,000 KKR Guernsey unit holders at the end of 2009.

The remaining 70 per cent of the company will be owned by the senior executives who currently have a stake in the company. They own about 478.1 common units, KKR said.

Founded in 1976 by Jerome Kohlberg and cousins Henry Kravis and George Roberts, KKR is one of the most influential buyout firms in the world. It became famous for the 1989 leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco, which was recounted in the book Barbarians at the Gate.

It was also a key player in the attempt to take BCE Inc. into private hands for $51.7 billion. Though the deal ultimately fell apart, it would have been the largest purchase in Canadian history and the largest private equity buyout ever.

The move to go public and list in the U.S. will allow KKR to access new capital sources and keep up with archrival The Blackstone Group, which went public at peak prices in 2007. In the stock rebound of the last 12 months, Blackstone shares have nearly doubled to trade at just below $15 US, but still well below their $31 IPO price.

KKR's assets under management totaled $52.2 billion US at the end of December, 2009, a more than threefold increase from the $15.1 billion US the company managed at the same time five years earlier.