Merchants Securities Co., the brokerage arm of China's top port operator Merchants Group, has hired Chinese joint ventures of UBS and Goldman Sachs to underwrite its proposed domestic IPO, sources close to the situation said on Wednesday.

Merchants Securities, based in the southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, is expected to raise at least 5 billion yuan ($655.7 million) through an initial public offering aimed for launch as early as this year, the sources said.

Merchants Securities, one of China's 10 biggest brokerages, is expected to finalise its IPO proposal, including the size and other details, and to submit a formal IPO application to the Chinese securities regulator as early as July, the sources said.

Officials at UBS and Goldman Sachs declined to comment, while Merchants Securities was not immediately available for comment.

($1=7.63 Yuan)