KKR says good time for going public

File photo shows Henry Kravis, founder Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. arriving at the 26th annual Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 10, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

NEW YORK (Reuters) - KKR & Co's proposed merger with struggling affiliate KKR Private Equity Partners KKR.AS, and then going public on the New York Stock Exchange will help the giant buyout firm expand at an ideal time for making acquisitions, executives said on Monday.

On Sunday the New York firm said it would acquire Amsterdam-listed KPE through a share swap. The combined company, one of the biggest and best known leveraged-buyout firms, then would go public by the end of November.

Co-founder George Roberts said during a conference call on Monday that pursuing a public listing during such weak markets showed management’s commitment to building KKR. Challenging times, he said, are often the right time to acquire companies.

A listing, which comes more than a year after KKR initially announced plans to go public, will give the firm a currency with which to attract new people and expand.

Co-founder Henry Kravis, on the same call, noted the combined firm would benefit from its recent expansion into fixed income businesses. Kravis also stressed that the firm had generated gross annual returns of 26 percent throughout its history, outperforming public markets in every environment.

KPE investors, Roberts said, will benefit from holding shares in a bigger, more diverse company.

Reporting by Jui Chakravorty and Paritosh Bansal; Writing by Joseph A. Giannone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn