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Written by: Staff

CANBERRA, Apr 26 (Reuters) The Australian government is to sell the country's largest health insurer Medibank Private, Finance Minister Nick Minchin and Health Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday.

An initial public offering (IPO) for the 29-year-old fund, which covers 3 million people, could raise around A$1 billion ($746 million), sources have said. But Minchin has also said there was considerable interest from trade buyers.

''The government has yet to decide whether Medibank Private will be sold through a share market float or trade sale. In part this will depend on whether the government proceeds with the sale of Telstra in 2006,'' the ministers said in a joint statement.

Medibank Private, which has 1.4 million policy payers and nearly 30 percent of Australia's private health insurance market, made a record net profit of A$130.8 million in the year to June 30, nearly triple that of the year before.

($1=A$1.34) REUTERS CS KN0924

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