Chinese insurer PICC rose on its trading debut in Hong Kong Friday, after making a lower-than-expected $3.1 billion in the Asian financial hub\'s biggest share sale this year. The state-owned company opened at HK$3.59, compared with an offer price of HK$3.48. \"This is a milestone development for PICC,\" its chairman Wu Yan said before hitting the gong to mark the beginning of the firm\'s trade. \"PICC is a pioneer in the Chinese insurance industry. It has become one of the fastest-growing insurance companies. \"The successful listing... also injects new energy into Hong Kong\'s equity market.\" The market has endured a slow year for initial public offerings owing to concerns about the outlook in China and globally. The firm sold 6.898 billion new shares at HK$3.48 ($0.45) each, making it the world\'s fifth largest IPO. But selling at the top end of its price range would have seen the Beijing-based People\'s Insurance Company of China, the nation\'s fourth largest insurer, raise up to $3.6 billion. The firm had risen 3.4 percent to HK$3.60 Thursday in so-called grey market trading ahead of Friday\'s debut, Dow Jones Newswires reported, citing trading firm PhillipMart. After pricing its shares at the lower end of the range PICC secured 17 cornerstone investors, committed to investing a total of $1.82 billion. These include the US-based insurance giant American International Group and China Life Insurance, China\'s biggest life insurer by premiums. Cornerstone investors are given the option to buy vast portions of stock in an IPO if they agree to hold the shares for a certain amount of time. PICC intends to use the net proceeds from the share sale to strengthen \"the company\'s capital base to support its business growth\", it said in an earlier statement. Founded in 1949, PICC was the first nationwide insurance company in China, which today has 130 million individual insurance customers and about 2.4 million institutional clients. There had been hopes that the share sale could reverse a stagnant IPO market in Hong Kong, which took a hit after Chinese companies started to worry about slow economic growth. Figures show the city has only raised about $10.16 billion from new listings so far this year, a plunge of 66 percent from the same period last year, according to data provider Dealogic.