Blackstone Gets Initial Pledges for Asia Real Estate Fund

Blackstone Group LP, the world’s biggest manager of alternative assets, has $1.5 billion of capital commitments for its first Asian property fund, targeted at $4 billion, according to a letter sent to investors.

Blackstone held a first close on the Asia real estate fund on June 7, according to the letter sent yesterday. The New York-based company said it plans to begin investing the money immediately. The firm will focus on China, India, Australia and Japan, a person with knowledge of its plans said in December.

The Asia-Pacific region’s economic growth and decline in property values have attracted private-equity investors. In the U.S., Blackstone has been the biggest buyer of commercial real estate since prices bottomed more than three years ago. The company last year completed the largest-ever private real estate fund, with $13.3 billion of pledges.

There’s “a pretty sharp contrast” in growth in Asia compared with Europe and the U.S., Jonathan Gray, Blackstone’s global head of real estate, said at the firm’s May 3 investor day. “And yet, there’s not a lot of capital.”

Blackstone Real Estate Partners Asia is the largest private property fund being raised for the region, followed by the $1 billion Alpha Asia Macro Trends Fund II, according to Preqin, a London-based research firm.

Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for Blackstone, declined to comment on the fundraising.

New Jersey

The New Jersey Division of Investment pledged $500 million in the fund’s first close, said Timothy Walsh, the director. The commitment was driven by Blackstone’s record of returns, attractive fees, Asia’s scarcity of investment capital relative to the U.S., and the state’s desire to expand in Asian real estate, he said.

“We have minimal exposure there,” he said in an e-mail. The division oversees the state’s $75.6 billion pension fund.

“BREP Asia is by far the largest and best-established Asia-Pacific investment manager with the widest geographic presence among its competitors,” Walsh wrote in a March 15 memo to New Jersey’s State Investment Council recommending the investment.

From 2010 to 2013, Blackstone invested about $1.46 billion of equity in 15 Asia-Pacific transactions that are projected to achieve a net return of 1.8 times invested capital, according to the memo.

While the new pool will be Blackstone’s first real estate fund devoted to Asia, the firm has been among the biggest buyers of property in Australia and India, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman said last year in Hong Kong.

“The long-term direction in Asia, for the economies here, is strongly up,” Schwarzman said.

At the end of last year, Blackstone purchased the Top Ryde mall in Sydney in a foreclosure sale for 50 percent less than its A$700 million ($665 million) construction cost, Gray said at the investor day. The firm in 2010 took over management of more than $2 billion of Asian real estate assets from Bank of America Corp.

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