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Price of new Medibank shares falls

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(Bloomberg) — Medibank Private Ltd. fell on its trading debut to below the price paid by institutional buyers after an initial public offering (IPO) that raised the equivalent of about $4.9 billion for Australia’s government.

The government sold about 2.7 billion shares in the health insurer at A$2.15 apiece to institutional investors and A$2 for individuals. After first trading at A$2.22, the shares closed at A$2.14 in Sydney. More than 586 million shares were traded, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Medibank shares had a very short honeymoon,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at Sydney-based CMC Markets Asia Pacific Pty, said by phone. “There was always a conflict between the popularity of the stock and the stretched valuation. Looks like popularity has waned and we could look at even more falls.”

The A$2.15-a-share sale price valued Medibank at 22.9 times estimated earnings for the year ending June 2015, Bloomberg data show. NIB Holdings Ltd., the nation’s only other listed health insurer, trades at about 19.5 times profit on that basis.

The government had raised the indicative IPO price range to between A$2 and A$2.30 a share, citing strong demand from institutional investors. The shares were previously marketed at A$1.55 to A$2 apiece.

Asset sales

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is cutting spending and selling assets to rein in a budget deficit that swelled to A$48.5 billion in the year through June. It has assigned advisers to scoping studies on other asset sales including Defence Housing Australia, the Royal Australian Mint and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s registry business.

Abbott’s government in April hired Macquarie Group Ltd., Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to manage the Medibank IPO. Australia’s benchmark stock index has slipped since Aug. 29, when some details of the IPO were announced, amid signs that economies from Japan to Europe are losing momentum.

The sale brought the total amount raised by Australian IPOs this year to A$15.9 billion, the highest since at least 1997, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Australia’s biggest IPO was the sale of the first tranche of Telstra Corp., the nation’s biggest phone company, in 1997.

The Medibank offering surpassed the A$4.3 billion raised when the government of Queensland state sold a stake in rail operator Aurizon Holdings Ltd. in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Dividend forecast

Medibank, led by Chief Executive Officer George Savvides, forecasts a fully-franked dividend of 4.9 cents per share for the seven months through June 2015, according to the listing prospectus.

Australia provides its citizens with free or subsidized health care at clinics and hospitals through Medicare. It also encourages people through tax benefits to take out private health insurance through companies like Medibank.

About 47 percent of Australians are covered by private insurers for hospital treatment while 55 percent are covered for other services such as dental and optical, according to a June statement from the government’s Private Health Insurance Administration Council.

See also: Real estate: Broke retirees drive Australian trailer-park boom.


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