Blackstone Group, the largest private equity investor in real estate, is seeking to raise as much as US$15 billion for its latest global property fund, surpassing its own record for funds of this type. The maximum target for Blackstone Real Estate Partners VIII was disclosed at a meeting of the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, which approved a US$70 million investment, said David Graham, a spokesman for the retirement fund. Together with borrowings, Blackstone's new pool would have buying power of about US$45 billion. Peter Rose, a spokesman for Blackstone, declined to comment on the fundraising. Details of the Ohio meeting were reported by the website Commercial Real Estate Direct. Blackstone is capitalising on strong demand for real estate amid record-low interest rates. It is replenishing funds for opportunistic investing at the same time it expands into buying high-quality, well-leased properties with lower return expectations. The BREP series of funds are its main vehicle for acquiring buildings or companies, often with some element of distress, that it can lease up, renovate or otherwise improve before selling. The firm began marketing its new BREP VIII fund in November last year and set a target of at least as much as the prior pool, which closed at US$13.3 billion in 2012. Blackstone plans to complete a first round of capital pledges this month, according to proceedings of the Ohio meeting that were confirmed by Graham, the pension fund spokesman. BREP VIII planned to invest about 60 per cent of its equity in North America and aimed for net returns of about 15 per cent, he said. Blackstone's ability to navigate the global financial crisis better than competitors has helped it attract capital. Net returns from the firm's three previous global property funds were about 14.3 per cent on average, according to meeting minutes confirmed by Graham.