The Carlyle Group reported a 21 percent drop in third-quarter profits Wednesday, as the D.C.-based private equity firm sold fewer assets and saw increased expenses.

The company’s after-tax economic net income, the industry’s popular method of measuring profitability, was $160.2 million, or 51 cents a share. That compares with $203.6 million, or 66 cents, a year earlier. The results were worse than some analysts had expected.

Carlyle’s lumpy earnings reflect its dependence on its core buyout business, which involves buying and selling companies over multi-year periods. If Carlyle doesn’t sell any of its investments, which range from railroads to a Philadelphia refinery, during a given period, its revenue and profits can fall.

Like other traditional private equity firms, such as Blackstone Group and KKR, Carlyle has been trying to decrease its dependence on the volatile leverage buyout business by moving toward an array of investments, including real estate.

“We continue to innovate and add high quality strategic assets to Carlyle,” Carlyle co-chief executive David M. Rubenstein said in a statement.

Carlyle raised $6.8 billion from investors in the third quarter. The company, which manages $185 billion in assets and is the country’s second largest private equity firm after Blackstone, has raised $22.9 billion in the past year.

Despite the decline in profits, the global asset manager said it would give a 16-cent-per-share quarterly dividend to stockholders by Nov. 27.

The company is headed in the right direction, said Howard Chen, an analyst with Credit Suisse.

“The things I think about when I think about the quarter are solid investment performance, an improving fundraising backdrop and payoff from targeted investment spending initiatives,” said Chen, managing director at Credit Suisse. “It’s a solid quarter.”

Carlyle shares were up slightly, about .75 percent, Wednesday to close at $30.36 a share. That is well above the initial public offering price last year of $22.