CBA eyes nation’s biggest health insurer

The Commonwealth Bank has indicated that it may be interested in acquiring Medibank Private were it put up for sale by its owner, the Federal Government. CBA's managing director David Murray said that “naturally we would have a look”, as the bank always looks at opportunities that would enhance service to its customers and its distribution system. He said that such a purchase would have to be “advantageous to our customers”.

Analysts said that an acquisition by the CBA of Medibank would be surprising but make some sense. Ross Brown from Deutsche Bank said the attraction for CBA would be selling health insurance through its branches. The CBA already sells life and disability insurance, he said, and selling health insurance is another risk product like those. But he questioned whether a bank would need to “manufacture” health insurance to sell it to customers when it could just rebadge someone else's product. He said he'd be surprised if the CBA went ahead and bought Medibank.

Other companies said to be interested in Medibank Private include Insurance Australia Group and the UK-based health fund BUPA. However IAG's CEO Michael Hawker said yesterday that his company's goals for the next five years do not include taking over Medibank.

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