The Australian government said on Sunday it had raised AUD15.5 billion (USD11.9 billion) from its sale of 2.2 billion shares in fixed line incumbent Telstra, nearly twice the AUD8 billion first expected. The high level of interest has been a pleasant surprise for the government, after numerous failed attempts to get a decent price for its remaining shares in Australia’s biggest telco. It sold 33% of Telstra in an AUD14.2 billion initial public offering in 1997, and a further 16.6% for AUD16 billion two years later, but further attempts were stymied by falling share prices. Shortly after the release of a disappointing set of fiscal full year 2006 results in August 2006, Prime Minister John Howard announced that the state would sell just a third of its remaining 51.8% in Telstra, opting not to offer its entire stake because its share price of AUD3.50 was at a nine-year low. The state launched the sale last month, offering half of the stake to the financial community and the remainder to retail and institutional investors.