Doubts hung over the planned Hong Kong listing of China Minsheng Banking Corp yesterday as unpredictable market conditions and a flood of sizeable new issues threatened to force its postponement. This came as China Shenhua Energy closed the retail portion of its initial public offering amid suggestions the company would price its stock at the bottom end of its $7.25 to $9.25 range. Sources also said that R&F Properties Group was likely to put its initial public offering on hold as new government measures to cool the mainland property markets deterred investors. Last night, market sources said Minsheng had yet to decide when to launch its float in Hong Kong, despite receiving stock exchange approval on Friday. Late last week, sources said the pre-marketing of the offer would start early this week, but fund managers yesterday said the 'educational briefings' with syndicate banks had been cancelled without explanation. According to the sources, the company's management was still pondering whether it would be able to raise the money it wanted in the current market conditions, or whether it might be better to wait. If Minsheng's float goes ahead in the next few days, it will come hot on the heels of larger mainland rival Bank of Communications (Bocom) - which is aiming to raise between US$1.4 billion and US$1.9 billion - and container shipping and ports company China Cosco Holdings, which hopes to raise up to US$2 billion. These massive floats could draw attention away from Minsheng's smaller offer, which was originally expected to total US$800 million to US$1 billion. In particular, Minsheng, as a smaller bank, would need to price its offer at a discount to Bocom's to appear attractive, fund managers said. Some sources said the lower than expected valuation of Bocom at 1.39 to 1.82 times its projected 2005 book value was a reason for Minsheng's hesitation, as it could mean the management would have to accept a lower price than initially planned. 'It may be good for Minsheng to wait and see how Bocom is doing before launching its own offer, as it may be difficult for it to compete [with Bocom] for the same funds,' one Hong Kong-based asset manager said. However, other fund managers noted that, as the first mainland banks to list, both Bocom and Minsheng were likely to represent better quality than the next batch of lenders that was expected to include sector giants China Construction Bank and Bank of China. 'I'd say both [Minsheng and Bocom] are worth investing in if you want exposure to this new sector,' one fund manager said. Minsheng has approval from mainland regulators to issue up to 1.34 billion H shares, widely expected to be offered at a discount to its A shares listed on the Shanghai stock exchange. The A shares now trade at 2.33 times the bank's historical book value, according to Bloomberg data. Meanwhile, a recovery in the H-share sector yesterday and talk of a lower offer price resulted in a pick-up of interest in Shenhua Energy just before the book closed on its offer at noon yesterday. One market source said the 5 per cent retail portion of the coal producer's $22.21 billion to $28.33 billion public offer was more than 15 times covered, which would trigger an automatic increase in the retail tranche to 7.5 per cent. It also meant the offer had attracted at least $21.25 billion worth of retail demand. This compared with $77.5 billion for telecommunications equipment supplier ZTE Corp and $72.2 billion for Air China in December last year. Earlier this year, fashion retailer I.T received about $47.5 billion worth of subscriptions for the retail tranche of its smaller public offer, which totalled only $593.8 million. According to brokers, retail investors were worried that coal prices had neared their peak and by the fact that the company was being offered at a substantial premium to smaller rival Yanzhou Coal Mining. Demand from institutional investors had reached about five times the shares offered to them late last night, sources said, although many had attached price limits to their orders. Several observers suggested that the final price would be no higher than $7.80.