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Blackstone seeks US$18b for biggest real estate fund

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Blackstone Group LP expects to raise US$18 billion for its biggest real estate fund ever.

[BOSTON] Blackstone Group LP expects to raise US$18 billion for its biggest real estate fund ever.

The firm, already the private equity industry's largest real estate investor, will have a strategy similar to its last fund, investing in distressed properties globally, according to people with knowledge of the plans. Blackstone's prior fund gathered US$15.8 billion in 2015.

Blackstone is seeking capital at an opportune time. Institutions such as public pension plans and insurance companies are betting big on property assets to protect against inflation and broaden their holdings beyond stocks and bonds. The number of investors allocating US$1 billion to the space keeps increasing, according to data provider Preqin.

A representative for Blackstone declined to comment.

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In June, New York-based Blackstone raised US$7.1 billion for an opportunistic real estate fund focused on Asia, and Carlyle Group LP this month also raised its largest US real estate fund.

Beyond real estate, investors are piling into alternative assets, helping firms raise much larger funds than before. The private equity industry brought in a record US$453 billion last year.

Blackstone, like its rivals, is taking advantage of that demand. It expects to raise more than US$20 billion for its eighth buyout fund, Bloomberg reported in July. Its prior buyout fund was a third invested at the end of June, according to a regulatory filing.

Real estate investments are a big profit driver at Blackstone. That can largely be credited to bets made by Jon Gray, who earlier this year was promoted to president and chief operating officer after making the firm a property giant.

Under Mr Gray's leadership, at the height of the real estate boom in 2007, the firm paid US$39 billion for Equity Office Properties Trust and US$26 billion for the Hilton hotel chain. Those investments made profits of more than US$20 billion. Kathleen McCarthy and Ken Caplan took over running the real estate group this year.

Blackstone started its real estate business in 1991 and has expanded it to US$119 billion in assets. It owns investments in hotels, offices, retail, industrial and residential properties in the US, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The firm's eighth real estate fund produced a 1.4 times multiple on invested capital before fees as of the end of June, according to a regulatory filing. Its funds from 2011 and 2007 reported a 1.9 times and 2.5 times gross multiple, respectively.

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