Generali denies sale of U.S. business

MILAN Mon May 13, 2013 7:50am EDT

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's biggest insurer Assicurazioni Generali (GASI.MI) denied reports on Monday it had sold its U.S. life reinsurance business as it presses ahead with efforts to wrap up a series of disposals to beef up its capital base.

"Following today's rumors on Generali's U.S. asset, the company states that no agreement to sell it has been reached," Generali spokesman Giulio Benedetti said in a statement.

He said the sales process was ongoing.

Generali, which is feeling the brunt of an ongoing recession in its domestic market, is seeking 4 billion euros ($5.19 billion) from the sale of non-core businesses to boost capital.

Last Thursday sources familiar with the talks told Reuters French insurer Scor (SCOR.PA) had emerged as lead bidder for its U.S. reinsurance business, which analysts say may be worth $800 million.

A source close to the situation said on Monday a deal could be reached "in the next week or so".

The Italian insurer is also seeking to dispose of its Swiss private bank BSI but potential buyers think it is worth less that its CHF 2.3 billion ($2.44 billion) book value.

"It's proving more difficult to get this one away," the same source said.

A consortium made up of Spanish lender Bankinter (BKT.MC) and U.S. investment fund Apollo Global Management (APO.N) is seen as the frontrunner to buy BSI.

The disposal plan is part of a broader turn-around strategy of Generali head Mario Greco who took over at the insurer last August when former CEO Giovanni Perissinotto was removed by disgruntled investors.

Greco's plan showed signs of reaping rewards last Friday when Generali posted higher-than-expected earnings and improved its capital base.

Shares in Generali have risen over 70 percent over the last 12 months. ($1 = 0.7709 euros)

(Reporting By Lisa Jucca and Stephen Jewkes; Additional reporting by Sophie Sassard in London; editing by Lisa Jucca)

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