Dai-ichi Mutual Life Insurance said its IPO, Japan's biggest in 12 years, would raise as much as 1.1 trillion yen ($12 billion) at the top of a price range, roughly in line with expectations.

The offering, the world's largest since credit card firm Visa Inc's $19.7 billion IPO in 2008, comes after Japan's IPO market fell to a near two-decade low last year.

Japan's No.2 life insurer, which is set to raise almost 19 times more money than the combined total of the 20 firms that debuted last year, will price the shares at 125,000-155,000 yen ($1,385-$1,717) each, against an initial reference price of 150,000 yen announced last month.

The range looks good, said Fujio Ando, adviser for Chibagin Asset Management. By setting what seems to be a conservative range, there will be less risk that the market debut flops.

Dai-ichi Life, which is led by President Katsutoshi Saito, said it would gauge demand from investors from Tuesday and set a final price on March 19. At the top of the range, Dai-ichi would have a market value of 1.55 trillion yen.

Dai-ichi, which is looking to expand overseas to offset an aging population and shrinking life insurance business at home, is trying to attract investors at a time when Korea Life Insurance, South Korea's No.2 life insurer, last week priced its $1.5 billion IPO shares below an indicative range.

Korea Life said on Monday it plans to offer 217.1 million shares in its IPO, up slightly from 210 million announced previously.

Priced at 8,200 won per share, the IPO will raise 1.78 trillion won or $1.6 billion.

South Korea's leading life insurer Samsung Life has also sought approval for an IPO that is expected to top $4 billion.

Dai-ichi may be in a favorable position after a $10-$20 billion Hong Kong IPO by American International Group's Asian insurance arm, AIA, was dropped due to the unit's planned $35.5 billion sale to British insurer Prudential Plc.

Dai-ichi Life, ranked only behind unlisted Nippon Life Insurance, has planned its listing on completion of its demutualization, in which its stock is distributed to almost 90 percent of its more than 8 million policyholders.

The company, established in 1902, will not raise any funds for its operations in the global offering, with policyholders given the option of holding on to their stock or cashing out.

Dai-ichi, whose main building in Tokyo served as headquarters for U.S. occupation forces after World War II, already has a presence in Thailand, Australia and India.

The IPO would be Japan's biggest since mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo's  2.1 trillion yen offering in late 1998, and the tentative price range would give it a market value more than double that of rival T&D Holdings.

Dai-ichi Life's revenue from the insurance business rose 16 percent to 2.9 trillion yen in April-December, and its fundamental profit, the equivalent of operating profit, rose 18 percent to 265 billion yen. Growth was led by Dai-ichi Frontier Life Insurance Co, a unit that sells variable annuities.

Dai-ichi has said that Japanese firms such as Mizuho Corporate Bank, Sompo Japan Insurance Inc and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ would buy 2.1 million of the 7 million shares on offer, helping establish a stable shareholder base.

Japanese IPOs slumped 58 percent to 57.5 billion yen last year to their lowest since 1992, but even before the global financial rout, appetite for market debuts in Tokyo, especially small-cap stocks, had shrunk since Internet firm Livedoor was hit by an accounting scandal in 2006.

Dai-ichi Life plans to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on April 1.

Nomura Holdings Inc, Mizuho Securities Co Ltd and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch are the IPO's arrangers.

(Additional reporting by Mariko Katsumura; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)