Apollo sees opportunities in real estate, commods

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NEW YORK - Private equity firm Apollo Management founder Leon Black said on Wednesday he sees investment opportunities in commercial real estate, commodities, metals, energy and agriculture.

He expects to do more distressed investments on a select basis, and sees opportunity for investing in finance-related assets. Black was speaking at a private equity conference in New York sponsored by Dow Jones.

Apollo, which has investments in firms including gaming company Harrah's Entertainment and real estate broker Realogy, has been an active investor in credit and distressed assets.

It said in November it had $13.4 billion of uncalled capital commitments -- or dry powder to spend.

Its latest fund, the $14.7 billion Fund VII, started investing in January 2008 in the midst of the economic downturn.

Black conceded that Apollo has done some bad deals, citing Linens 'n Things, a retail investment that filed for bankruptcy protection as sales slumped.

Linens was a terrible deal but if you look at Fund V, which Linens was in, it was the best (overall) portfolio in our history, and Linens was a wipeout.

Apollo has also been moving closer to following rivals onto the New York Stock Exchange, and in November it updated a regulatory filing regarding its plan. Rival Blackstone Group listed in 2007 and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, which is listed on Euronext, is expected to move to the NYSE.

Apollo originally filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in April 2008 -- before the market slid -- to register securities already traded on a private exchange and said it planned to list them on the NYSE.

Black said on the sidelines of the New York conference that he hopes the shares will be listed by the end of the first quarter, but said the timing was up to the SEC.

Asked whether he expected tax on carried interest to rise -- a controversial debate for private equity -- he said that when you're dealing with the world of politics nothing is inevitable.

The U.S. House of Representatives has several times voted to increase taxes on carried interest -- compensation earned by hedge fund and private equity fund managers for money management.

These individuals now pay a capital gains tax of 15 percent. The proposal would treat such compensation as income and therefore be taxed at 35 percent.

U.S. President Barack Obama included the proposal in his 2010 budget, though the idea has failed to gain momentum in the U.S. Senate.

The government is, as it should be, looking for every revenue source, said Black. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for some adjustment, he added.

(Editing by Gary Hill)

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