Medibank private sale could reap Australia US$4.8 bn

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SYDNEY (Oct 20): Australia hopes to raise up to Aus$5.51 billion (US$4.82 billion) through the sale of the country's largest health insurer in an initial public offering, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Monday.

The conservative government confirmed in March that Medibank Private would be sold as it seeks to offload assets to raise funds to reinvest in infrastructure.

"The government has long been committed to the sale of Medibank Private," Cormann said in a statement. "The government intends to sell down its entire shareholding."

Cormann said the indicative price range for retail investors had been set at Aus$1.55-Aus$2.00 per share.

This would give Medibank Private a market capitalisation of Aus$4.26 billion-Aus$5.51 billion, placing it in the top 100 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, he added.

Cormann said the sale would remove the current conflict where the government is both the regulator of the private health insurance market and owner of the largest market participant. Medibank provides cover to 3.8 million people.

The government has previously said Medibank is one of 34 competing funds in the private health insurance market in Australia and that a scoping study had found no evidence that premiums would rise as a result of the sale.