Heilongjiang Beidahuang Agribusiness Corp - controlled by the mainland's Ministry of Agriculture - is seeking an H-share listing to raise about $2 billion. It is expected to be the second firm under the ministry allowed to list outside the mainland after China Aquatic. Merchant banking sources said the size of the issue would be determined closer to the listing date. Contenders to sponsor the issue include BNP Primeast, Morgan Stanley and HSBC Investment Banking. Beidahuang, or the Great Northern Wilderness, is an area in northeastern Heilongjiang which has been cultivated in recent decades to provide food. The area - one of the mainland's leading grain production bases - comprises 103 large and medium-sized mechanised farms. Government officials involved in the flotation have been speeding up pre-listing work in an attempt to complete the flotation this year. The head of the Heilongjiang Agriculture Bureau, Wang Yulin, was quoted as saying that under the initial plan the listed arm would comprise between 13 and 15 farms and a fertiliser plant. He said the farms selected yielded a rate of return of up to 40 per cent and the proceeds would be used to invest in grain processing. The group was established following approval from the State Planning Commission, State Economic and Trade Commission and State Commission for Restructuring the Economy to include it as a pilot scheme for state-owned enterprise reform. It is the largest state-owned agricultural group Beijing has permitted to be set up and will have the Beidahuang Group as its parent. The group will be charged with the task of modernising agricultural land in the province. Its total assets were worth about 22.4 billion yuan (about HK$20.84 billion) last year. The group generated pre-tax profit of about 3.47 billion yuan.