Blackstone is getting ready for a final close on its $20 billion real estate fund, PERE has learned.

The New York-based investment manager is nearing the end of its fundraise, and sources familiar with the matter told PERE that the firm intends to hold a close for its large institutional clients in the first quarter of 2019 ahead of a close for its retail investors. The amount of capital to be raised from each group of investors, as well as the total number of closes Blackstone will hold for its latest global opportunistic fund, is unclear.

One of Blackstone’s institutional investors told PERE that it recently finalized its commitment to BREP IX, which is understood to be part of the institutional close for the fund.

Last July, Blackstone president and chief operating officer Jonathan Gray announced during the firm’s second quarter earnings call that the ninth BREP fund would launch “very soon” and predicted a closing could come as early as the end of 2018.

PERE understands that institutional investors continue to account for the majority of the capital raised for the real estate fund, which targets investments across a diversified set of property types.The fund targets 20 percent gross returns and 14.6 percent net returns, according to meeting minutes from the New Mexico State Investment Council, which committed $100 million to BREP IX.

Blackstone is on course to follow the fundraising tactic employed by its previous fund in the series, BREP VIII. The $15.8 billion investment vehicle held a first close on $14.5 billion of institutional capital in March 2015 and a final close in October of that year on $1.3 billion from retail investors, PERE previously reported. It was understood that the retail investors in BREP VIII took a longer time to close than the institutional investors because capital was amassed from wealth management divisions at multiple investment banks.

Blackstone has been making a major push to attract non-institutional investors in recent years. Across all asset classes, the firm’s institutional investors have accounted for $334 billion in assets under management, while retail investors and private wealth accounted for $58 billion and insurance companies accounted for $47 billion as of June 30, 2018, according to an investor day presentation from September 2018. Retail investors could eventually account for half the money raised, Joan Solotar, Blackstone’s head of private-wealth solutions, said in March.

In the investor day presentation, the firm estimated that the retail and private wealth category holds an opportunity set of more than $70 trillion, and Blackstone has only penetrated around 0.1 percent of the market. In comparison, the firm estimates it has penetrated 0.7 percent of the more than $50 trillion market for institutional investors and 0.2 percent of the estimated $30 trillion available from insurance companies.

In addition to the BREP series, Blackstone also manages two regional opportunistic real estate fund series: Blackstone Real Estate Partners Asia and Blackstone Real Estate Partners Europe. Since their inception in 1991, the firm’s opportunistic real estate funds had generated a net internal rate of return of 16 percent and gross return of 16 percent as of June 30, 2018, according to the investor day presentation. BREP VIII produced a net IRR of 17 percent, according to the same report.