Story by Bloomberg

Blackstone Group LP, the biggest alternative-asset manager, raised $17 billion in seven months for its latest buyout fund, two people with knowledge of the process said.

The New York-based firm has completed the initial round of fundraising for Blackstone Capital Partners VII and will continue to gather commitments, said the people, who requested anonymity because the details are typically kept private until funds stop accepting money. Blackstone targeted $16 billion for the pool and set a maximum of $17.5 billion, President Tony James said last month.

Blackstone executives are meeting with fund investors this week in New York in an annual event, the people said. Peter Rose, a Blackstone spokesman, declined to comment on fundraising.

The initial close is among the biggest in the history of Blackstone, which manages $310 billion in assets. It’s also one of the largest funds raised since the 2008 financial crisis and comes as private equity clients are flush with cash. Investors in such funds received distributions of more than $1 trillion during the 18 months ended June 2014, which in turn has helped firms raise more than $1 trillion globally in the past two years, according to Preqin.

“This vast amount of capital shows that the private equity industry continues to be able to raise funds successfully, as well as demonstrating its ability to collect for larger vehicles,” said Matthew Morris, a senior research analyst at Preqin.

Apollo’s Fund

Apollo Global Management LLC, the buyout firm run by Leon Black, last year finished gathering $18.4 billion for the biggest private equity fund raised since the crisis.

Blackstone’s private equity unit, run by Joe Baratta, is investing its sixth fund, which completed gathering $16 billion in 2012. The pool was producing a 14 percent annualized return after fees and was valued at 1.4 times cost as of March 31.

“I get all kinds of like unsolicited positive things after Joe goes and visits somebody, usually followed up by some large amount of money, which I guess is the best way to express your love and appreciation of someone in the finance business,” Steve Schwarzman, Blackstone’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said on a conference call last month discussing first-quarter earnings.

Finding Value

Private equity firms recently have struggled to find cheap assets as markets hover near record highs. Leveraged buyouts totaled $37.1 billion in the first three months of the year, a 3.4 percent decline from a year earlier and down 32 percent from the fourth quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Increasingly high valuations pose a risk for LPs seeking the high returns that private equity can offer,” said Preqin’s Morris, referring to limited partners, or the investors in funds.

Blackstone joins TPG Capital and Ares Management LP on the fundraising trail. TPG has gathered more than $7 billion toward a target of $10 billion for its first buyout fund in seven years, and Ares ispreparing to market its fifth main fund with a target of about $5.5 billion, people with knowledge of the plans said last month.

In addition to the private equity fund, Blackstone is wrapping up fundraising for its global property fund, Blackstone Real Estate Partners VIII. It had gathered $14.5 billion as of March and wasseeking $1.3 billion more from individual clients, a person with knowledge of the process said at the time.

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