China's Sinohydro Group Ltd, the builder of the Three Gorges dam, plans to raise more than $2.5 billion in what could be mainland China's biggest initial public offering this year.

The Chinese equity market has been dominated by smaller issues so far in 2011, following a hectic 2010 that saw a slew of mega IPOs by companies like Agricultural Bank of China and China Everbright Bank .

A sluggish stock market has curbed investor appetite for primary offerings, which analysts said would tame interest in upcoming IPOs by bigger companies.

"When the market was hot, many IPOs were over-priced and clearly there was a bubble. I don't expect to see lofty valuations on major IPOs these days," said Wu Binhua, an analyst at Hwabao Securities.

Founder Securities, the Chinese partner of Credit Suisse, has set a suggested price target to raise up to 6.42 billion yuan ($996 million) from its planned Shanghai IPO, IFR reported on Tuesday.

Reflecting sluggish investor demand and highlighting the growing risks faced by bookrunners, Haitong Securities ended up holding 58 percent of a public placement by Jiangsu Zhongtian Technology last week, after rival Orient Securities was also stuck with shares on a separate deal.

SINOHYDRO PLANS

Sinohydro plans to issue up to 3.5 billion new shares to raise up to 17.3 billion yuan ($2.7 billion) to fund new projects, the company said in a draft IPO prospectus on Tuesday. It will not be clear how much Sinohydro will raise until it sets its IPO price.

"China regularly suffers from droughts and floods, so there's a genuine need to invest further in hydro projects, making Sinohydro's IPO attractive to some investors," Wu said.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said it would review the company's IPO application on Friday.

The new issue would represent close to 35 percent of its expanded share capital, with the funds being used for equipment purchases and investments in clean energy projects, it said.

Sinohydro is a leading dam builder in China, having built 65 percent of the medium and large-sized dams in the country, including the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze river and the Xiaolangdi dam on the Yellow River.

As part of an overseas expansion drive, the firm has taken on projects in Malaysia, Sudan, Laos and Ghana, according to the company's website.

It is also involved in other infrastructure projects, including the recently launched Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link, it said on its website.

Sinohydro Corp posted operating revenue of 101 billion yuan and net profit of 2.91 billion yuan in 2010.

China Securities Co. and Bank of China International are the lead underwriters for the listing.

($1 = 6.445 yuan)