Fifty-three bank branches will open two hours early today in anticipation of overwhelming investor response on the last day that mainland giant China Life Insurance's hotly contested initial public offering (IPO) is available for retail subscription in Hong Kong. The banks will accept applications from 7am until midday from China Life share subscribers, the mainland's largest insurer and the dominant life insurance company said through its public relations firm last night. China Life's global IPO, which could raise up to US$3 billion before dual listings in New York and Hong Kong next week, is the world's largest this year and a chance for overseas investors to buy into a previously closed industry with rosy growth potentials. Ninety-five per cent of the 6.47 billion shares on offer had been earmarked for global institutional investors. By the time the application closed yesterday afternoon - a day earlier than scheduled - it was believed to have been 10 times oversubscribed. News that Hong Kong's biggest tycoons last week agreed to take US$500 million worth of China Life shares, or 18 per cent of the IPO, was a further boost to investor enthusiasm for the 323.5 million shares on offer to retail investors. China Life and its bankers are likely to price the IPO, accounting for 25 per cent of its enlarged share capital, towards the higher end of the price range of HK$2.98 to $3.65 for US-traded shares and $2.95 to $3.61 for Hong Kong shares later today. 'It's a virgin industry not available yet to investors,' said Andy Mantel, managing director of Pacific Sun Investment Management (HK). He said that investors were attracted by demographic developments that augur well for China's life insurers, China Life's business fundamentals and dominant market position which has helped other listed state-owned industry giants. China Life commanded a 45 per cent share of China's life insurance market last year. However, investors hoping for a repeat of the 50 per cent gain seen on the Hong Kong stock debut of another mainland insurance giant, PICC Property and Casualty, last month might be headed for disappointment due to the much larger size of China Life's public float, Mr Mantel said. 'But over a certain time, the company should do pretty well,' he said.