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Blackstone's Jonathan Gray says the private equity giant likes the travel, sustainability, and housing sectors amid the economic reopening (BX)

Jonathan GrayHeidi Gutman/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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In an interview with Bloomberg's Sonali Basak on Thursday, Blackstone's President and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gray said his firm invested in the travel, sustainability, and housing sectors amid the economic reopening and is "excited" about the sectors' potential moving forward.

Gray added that Blackstone has moved toward "thematic investing" during the pandemic due to the transformation of the US economy by technology and said the firm plans to continue the strategy in 2021.

"In an environment that's being transformed by technology, how can you see the best neighborhoods, the areas that will benefit from what's happening," Gray said. "We've done a lot in technology and life sciences, global logistics, we had huge appreciation in the quarter in our portfolio and a lot of that was in those areas."

Gray said Blackstone's top themes for 2021 are travel, sustainability, and housing due to the COVID recovery.

"Looking forward, and certainly in the first quarter, we've been doing a lot around the COVID recovery play, so we've invested in a bunch of travel-related businesses…that's an area we're excited about," Gray said.

Gray also said Blackstone is "excited about what's happening in sustainability" and that the firm did a number of deals in Europe and the US to build out the electrical grid and help with environmental remediation.

Finally, Gray said he'd "add housing as another area where we have a bunch of enthusiasm" and that his firm has done deals in the US both in rentals and in single-family housing in the first quarter.

According to Bloomberg, Blackstone invested $17.7 billion in the travel, sustainability, and housing sectors in the first three months of 2021, buying hotels like Extended Stay America, private jet operator Signature Aviation, and a UK-based travel company called Bourne Leisure.

Gray was also asked about his views on inflation.

"I think that really is the big question, that's the concern that exists and you see it in steel and lumber prices which are up double digits. Used cars are up 25% year-over-year. We're beginning to see pressure on wages…and so I think that's something that all investors need to take into account. I think there's some risk on valuation multiples," Gray said.

Gray's comments come after Blackstone posted strong earnings results on Thursday.

Assets under management grew to $649 billion and private equity distributable earnings jumped 160%. Real estate distributable earnings also doubled to $540.8 million.

This pushed total first-quarter distributable EPS to $0.96, which beat analyst estimates for $0.76 and topped the $0.46 figure the company turned in the first quarter of 2020.

Shares of Blackstone traded up over 4% on Thursday after earnings were released.

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