SYDNEY  - Giant private equity fund Blackstone Group hopes to close its first Australian deal this year and is looking at a deal in Japan and South Korea, a senior official said on Friday.

The firm, which focuses primarily on China and India in Asia, is looking at deals that would give it a presence in the Australian resources or services and manufacturing sector, Senior Managing Director Ben Jenkins told Reuters at a Sydney conference.

We are optimistic about the underlying fundamentals of the Australian economy, he said. It is an important market now and we hope to close deals this year.

Jenkins said the deals could be about $100 million. (Reporting by Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Michael Perry)