New head of Medibank Private board
The government has appointed the former chairman of the country's biggest healthcare company to head its Medibank Private board, in an apparent move to bolster the group's market credibility before a possible sale.
The appointment of Elizabeth Alexander to chair the profitable government business was announced by Finance Minister Penny Wong.
Ms Alexander, who steps into the role next week, spent 20 years on the board of pharma company CSL - five as chairman - until 2011.
Originally a government-owned business such as Medibank, CSL - formerly the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories - is now the biggest healthcare company on the Australian stock exchange, with a market capitalisation of more than $23 billion.
According to her former employer, Ms Alexander played a key role in CSL's listing in 1994 and helped transform the group from a domestic biologics manufacturer to a global pharmaceutical company.
Senator Wong said her experience on corporate boards and government committees "will be of great benefit as Medibank continues its transformation from a private health insurer to an integrated health solutions provider".
Despite being an obvious fit to lead a government business into the private sector, the minister denied that the appointment was designed to spruik the insurer ahead of a possible sale. "The government does not have any plans to privatise Medibank Private," a spokeswoman for Senator Wong said.
Ms Alexander, who takes over from Paul McClintock, is the chancellor of the University of Melbourne and chairs investment group Dexus Wholesale Property Limited.
She has been a non-executive director on the Medibank Private board since October 2008.
Medibank's accounts showed the insurer intended to pay a special dividend to the government of $300 million this financial year, on top of a $91 million ordinary dividend.
The Coalition's policy is to float Medibank if it wins government.