(Bloomberg) -- After buyout firms enjoyed years of raising money at a rapid clip, Apollo Global Management Inc. and Carlyle Group Inc. are sending their strongest signal yet that era is fading.

Apollo, among the most aggressive private equity firms in gathering cash, told investors earlier this year it planned to raise its $25 billion fund in one go by year-end. It has changed the timetable.

The firm is preparing an initial close of that fund in the next month or so -- at half the original goal, according to people familiar with the matter. It has also told clients it will continue collecting money into next year.

“There’s no way anyone will raise money on the schedule they’ve initially envisioned,” Apollo Chief Executive Officer Marc Rowan said at the Milken Institute Global Conference in May. 

Carlyle told investors at a client meeting earlier this month that it gathered about $15 billion so far for its new buyout and growth fund, the people said. That’s less than the $17 billion it anticipated collecting by roughly midyear as it targets raising $22 billion for the flagship fund.

At the same time, executives at Washington-based Carlyle said at that meeting that they expect fundraising for the vehicle to be slower than the firm originally set out, the people said. Investors were told that Carlyle understood the constraints that pensions and other big institutions face parting with cash during volatile markets.

Representatives for Carlyle and Apollo declined to comment.

The private equity industry faces one of the most challenging fundraising environments in years, creating a new test for a rising generation of buyout leaders. Pension fund and endowment coffers have shrunk in the stock selloff, making them reluctant about locking up more money in funds that are hard to sell and value.

The end of easy-money central bank policies, rising odds of a recession, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have made investors wary. Many have maxed out how much they can put to work in private equity -- and can’t afford the risk of adding more exposure to buyouts and private markets.  

“There is an overcrowding” in private equity, Carlyle CEO Kewsong Lee said at an investment conference earlier this month. That’s in part because funds are doing deals faster than investors planned for and coming to market faster than expected, Lee said.

That’s creating more difficulty for firms racing for cash to put to work before a potential economic downturn. The biggest are raising giant buyout funds at the same time. Blackstone Inc., Carlyle and Apollo are collectively seeking more than $70 billion for flagship funds. 

For New York-based Apollo, the earlier initial close for its $25 billion fund will allow the firm to continue to finance deals at a time when it has only $2 billion to $3 billion of dry powder as its previous fund is almost fully tapped out.

It’s already in the mix on several big transactions. Apollo is part of a group said to have put in a binding bid for Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.’s international arm. It’s also said to be among potential bidders for Grubhub, the US unit of Just Eat Takeaway.com.

As Rowan sees it, Apollo will likely take about a year to raise its new fund. The previous flagship took just six months to raise.

“We’re getting a good reception,” he said in May. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be as fast as it’s been historically for fundraising.”

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