Japanese state-backed oil company Inpex Corp. was on course to raise nearly 160 billion yen ($1.5 billion, Dh55.05 billion) in the country's third-biggest initial public offering this year after pricing the shares yesterday at the top of its tentative range.

Inpex, 54 per cent owned by Japan National Oil Corp. (JNOC), said the shares were priced at 465,000 yen, indicating strong demand for the stock even in a weakening IPO market.

JNOC had set a tentative price range of 430,000 to 465,000 yen for the sale of 17.9 per cent of Inpex, which is scheduled to debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on November 17.

It will be the third-big-gest IPO in Japan this year after a $3.4 billion sale of shares in Electric Power Development Co. Ltd., in which the government held an 83 per cent stake, and a $2.4 billion offering in Shinsei Bank Ltd.

Until then strong demand for new issues, especially from small investors, had pushed initial trading prices sky high. In the latest of a series of privatisations, Inpex will sell 249,201 existing shares in Japan and 94,524 to overseas investors.

Inpex's price to earnings (PE) ratio is 29.06 at the offered price, compared with 25.93 for rival Japan Petro-leum Exploration Co. Ltd. and 26.35 for Teikoku Oil Co. Ltd.