* Fund's target raised from $5 bln after strong investor interest
* Fund to target buyout and growth opportunities
* Carlyle kicks off separate 4 bln yuan Chinese fund
By Sumeet Chatterjee and Kane Wu
HONG KONG, May 7 (Reuters) - Carlyle Group is set to close its biggest-ever Asia private equity fund at $6.5 billion, people with direct knowledge of matter said, in a deal that adds to the record levels of funds seeking deals in the region.
The private equity giant had initially targeted a fund of $5 billion but raised its expectations following a strong response from its investors, known as limited partners, said the people. The fundraising could be completed as early as this month-end, one of them said, although a separate source said the timing of the close could change.
Investor interest in Asia-focused private equity has grown as deals have increased in size following corporate restructuring and as global private equity funds make headway in key markets, including China, India and Japan.
Last year Carlyle's rival Bain Capital led the region's biggest ever-buyout with the $18 billion purchase of Toshiba Corp's chips unit.
Carlyle's latest fund will combine buyout and growth opportunities, one of the people said, with the bulk going to buyouts. The firm merged its Asia buyout and growth teams in 2017.
Separately, the U.S. private equity fund has also kicked off a process to raise a Chinese yuan fund of 4 billion ($629 million) that would target opportunities in the world's second-largest economy, one of the people told Reuters.
Carlyle declined to comment. The sources declined to be named as the information is private.
The two funds of Carlyle add to fundraising momentum in a region that has become a key battleground for global financial sponsors.
A total of 342 funds raised a combined $107 billion in Asia last year, according to data provider Preqin.
Other global groups that have recently raised fresh capital include KKR & Co, which closed a new Asia-focused buyout fund in June last year after raising $9.3 billion, a record for the region.
Bain is also targeting up to $4 billion for a new Asia-focused fund.
Carlyle's existing portfolio firms in Asia range from a stake in Chinese internet giant Tencent's e-book unit China Literature to Metropolis Healthcare, an India-based global operator of pathology laboratories.
Last month, it agreed to invest, along with TPG Capital Management and others, $1.9 billion to buy a majority stake in the financial services business of Chinese search engine Baidu .
The Washington, D.C.-based firm generated an 18 percent net internal rate of return in its last $3.9 billion Asia fund by the end of March, according to its first quarter earnings report. (Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Kane Wu; Editing by Jennifer Hughes and Muralikumar Anantharaman)