KKR & Co. deployed a record US$12.5 billion in the fourth quarter, finding buying opportunities in the market turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York-based KKR also had a record fundraising for the year, taking in about US$44 billion, according to a statement Monday.

KKR “had the most active fundraising and deployment year in our history,” co-Chief Executive Officers Henry Kravis and George Roberts said in the statement.

Private equity firms have been bringing in cash at a rapid pace and KKR has been among the most active dealmakers. Notable acquisitions last year included a US$3 billion-plus deal for lens retailer 1-800 Contacts and spending 4.2 billion pounds (US$5.8 billion) for waste management business Viridor Ltd. It has also expanded its U.S. industrial real estate holdings.

Its US$2.8 billion Dislocation Opportunities Fund, raised at the height of pandemic anxiety, gained 52 per cent last year as it seized on credit opportunities.

KKR shares have outpaced rivals. They rose 36 per cent in the 12 months through Monday. Blackstone Group Inc. and Apollo Global Management Inc. advanced 12 per cent and 7.6 per cent, respectively.

Among fourth-quarter highlights:

  • Distributable earnings were 49 cents a share, exceeding the average estimate of 41 cents among analysts.
  • The firm’s flagship private equity funds posted gains of 32 per cent before fees.
  • Fee-related earnings climbed 59 per cent from a year earlier to US$431 million.
  • The firm ended the year with US$252 billion in assets under management, 16 per cent higher than a year earlier. Including the purchase of Global Atlantic Financial Group Ltd., that figure would be US$342 billion.
  • KKR had dry powder of $67 billion as of Dec. 31. That’s little changed from the end of the third quarter.