CDH Investments, the mainland's leading private equity group, is on track to raise a new fund focusing on early stage companies - a move to chase long-term returns amid a slowing economy and a slumbering stock market. The Beijing-based fund manager is expected to raise US$300 million to US$350 million and the warm response so far from investors showed it would be easy to complete the fundraising, said Huang Yan, a managing partner at CDH. He didn't reveal when the new fund would be put into operation. The fund-raising comes amid a lacklustre buyout market in China in the first half, reflecting a shift in strategy by mainland funds. Fund consultancy Zero2IPO said a total US$8.56 billion of private equity and venture capital funds was raised from January to June, down 77.1 per cent from a year earlier. 'Private equity funds will no longer be able to generate super returns,' said Zero2IPO chief executive Gavin Ni. 'It will be difficult for the funds to exit in 2012 and the next year due to political and economic reasons.' Elevated prices of company listings at home and abroad prompted a flood of pre-initial public offering (IPO) deals as the funds booked handsome gains after their trading debuts. But mainland firms are getting the cold shoulder from US investors due to a crisis of confidence after a raft of accounting scandals last year. In the first half, only one company, Vipshop, secured a US listing while China Auto Rental, the mainland's largest car-hire firm, decided to postpone its offering on the Nasdaq in April after it failed to attract enough orders from US investors. On the mainland, the securities regulator has been striving to curb frothy IPOs to protect investor interests, as an influx of fresh equity with lofty offering prices caused a huge liquidity drain on the stock market. Huang said it was a new trend for China-focused funds to pursue early stage investments in start-ups. The aim is to chase long-term returns in the belief that the stock market and economy would recover in two years. 'We are also planning to list several of our portfolio companies on the domestic market,' he said. 'It is unlikely that any Chinese firm can attract American investors in the short term.' Huang would not say which companies were seeking to list on the A-share market. The new fund would target the technology, media, telecommunications, health care and clean-energy sectors, he said. Set up in 2002 as a spin-off of China International Capital Corp, CDH manages US$7 billion in funds. The national pension fund is a limited partner.