Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance (ARI) says common stockholders in the third quarter benefited from earnings of $5.5 million, or 28 cents a share, missing the Thomas Reuters consensus estimate by 11 cents. That compares to a profit of $2.4 million, or 21 cents a share, last year. Apollo, a real estate investment trust, invests in commercial real estate loans and commercial mortgage-backed securities. It is externally managed by an indirect subsidiary of Apollo Global Management (APO). In the most recent quarter, its operating earnings were 38 cents per share, or $7.6 million, a 19% year-over-year increase, while its net interest income increased 86%. The company has recorded $112 million in new investments so far this year. The firm recently made the decision to launch a stock repurchase program to give Apollo more flexibility in its capital structure. Stuart Rothstein, Apollo's CFO, attributes the firm's recent net interest income growth and higher operating earnings to positive growth in its portfolio. During the third quarter, the company closed on a $25 million junior mezzanine loan, which was secured by equity interests in three New York City hotels. Apollo said that mezzanine loan is just one part of a $400 million, five-year financing package that is split three ways. The package includes a $270 million first mortgage, a $105 million senior mezzanine loan and the $25 million junior mezzanine loan. The junior mezzanine loan that Apollo is tied to has an appraised loan-to-value ratio of 60%. In July, Apollo offered 3 million shares of common stock in a private offering, pricing the stock at $16.66 per share. Proceeds from that offering hit $49 million and helped the firm fund its $25 million investment in the junior mezzanine loan. The company announced in August that it would launch a plan to repurchase up to $35 million of common stock over the next 12 months. Write to Kerri Panchuk.