KKR shares barely budge in U.S. debut

By David Ellis, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It has been years in the making, but shares of the private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. finally made their U.S. debut Thursday.

Shares of the New York-based firm, trading under the symbol "KKR", got off to a modestly higher start, before finishing nearly 3% lower on the New York Stock Exchange.

"Today's NYSE listing is an important milestone for KKR, and will provide an opportunity for investors to share in the value being created by our firm," cofounders Henry Kravis and George Roberts said in a statement issued shortly after the market open.

KKR (KKR) is known mainly for its role in taking RJR Nabisco private in 1988, a deal that spawned the book and television movie "Barbarians at the Gate."

The company originally filed to go public in 2007, but subsequently delayed its offering. A year later, the firm made another run at an initial public offering, but was forced to scuttle those plans altogether with the U.S. financial markets in turmoil in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The company then pursued the non-traditional route of going public through a takeover of its Amsterdam-listed investment fund. Thursday's debut simply marks the migration of those European-listed shares to the NYSE.

Analysts have suggested that KKR decided to move its shares to a U.S. exchange simply to widen its pool of potential investors.

Whether that demand will be there or not however, remains to be seen. Shares of publicly-traded private equity firms, including KKR rival Blackstone Group (BX) and Fortress Investment Group (FIG), are off 71% and 87% respectively since their market debuts in 2007. To top of page

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