After a fierce bidding war, the battle for Equity Office Properties Trust is finally over, with the real estate investment trust approving a merger with The Blackstone Group.The final consideration of over $38 billion -- including $55.50 cash for Equity Office common shareholders and the assumption of the REIT's debt -- reportedly makes this the largest private equity buyout deal ever. The prize is an office portfolio comprising 543 office buildings, with 103 million square feet, in 16 states and the Washington, D.C. area. With economic growth taking off and rising demand for office space, office market fundamentals are seen as healthy. The Chicago-based Equity Office is the largest REIT by market capitalization. Initially, the Blackstone offer was for about $36 billion -- $48.50 per Equity Office share in cash and the assumption of the real estate investment trust's debt. The private equity investor was forced to raise its price after Vornado Realty Trust, a Paramus, N.J.-based office REIT, got into the fray in partnership with Starwood Capital Group and Walton Street Capital. Vornado dropped out of the bidding war on Feb. 7. Equity Office can be found online at http://www.equityoffice.com.

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