(Corrects 15th paragraph to show that Generali is not obliged
to buy the stake.)
* Generali Q3 net profit 291 mln euros, op result 949 mln
* 2012 op result to exceed 4 bln euros, within target range
* To meet investors on strategy on Jan. 14 in London
* Group Solvency I ratio at 145 pct end Oct
By Lisa Jucca and Gianluca Semeraro
MILAN, Nov 9 Italy's No.1 insurer Generali
is to unveil in January how it plans to boost
profitability and bolster its financial base after completing a
strategic review under the leadership of new boss Mario Greco.
Third-quarter results published on Friday showed the insurer
was rebuilding its financial base and net profit had surged as
Generali avoided a repeat of the heavy writedowns on Greek bonds
and other financial assets that had weakened it a year earlier.
Greco, previously at Swiss insurer Zurich, was put
at the helm of the Trieste-based financial heavyweight on Aug.
1t after investors unhappy with low returns ousted in anger
former long-standing boss Giovanni Perissinotto.
Greco, who is going to meet investors in London on Jan. 14,
said on Friday he was carrying out a thorough assessment of the
insurer's geographical presence and its products.
"At the end of the day you should have a clear understanding
of how we intend to improve our run rate of profits and
strengthen the balance sheet, as well as what we see to be the
opportunities for Generali to compete and win against our global
insurance peers," Greco told analysts after results.
Italy's biggest insurer by assets and market value posted a
43 percent rise in third-quarter operating results and its net
profit came in at 291 million euros ($370 million) on the back
of a market rally and a keener focus on the most lucrative life
insurance products. A year ago, net profit had been hit hard by
the sovereign debt crisis and stood at 19.5 million euros on the
Results were broadly in line with analysts' expectations.
Greco said he was confident the operating result would
exceed 4 billion euros by the end of the year, within its target
Analysts were encouraged by improved Solvency I ratio, a
measure of Generali's capacity to absorb losses, which new Chief
Financial Officer Alberto Minali said had reached 145 percent by
the end of October with the sale of Israeli unit Migdal.
But this is still a far cry from the 190 percent ratio
reported by German rival Allianz, which said it is on
course to reach an operating profit of more than 9 billion euros
Generali suffered more than competitors Allianz and France's
Axa in the euro zone sovereign debt crisis as it holds
vast amounts of Italian government bonds.
Non-life operating profit fell a touch but its combined
ratio - a key profit indicator - was stable despite a 311
million euro hit from an earthquake in Italy and European bad
LOOKING FOR BUYERS
The group is looking for buyers for its Swiss private
banking unit BSI and for a U.S. reinsurance subsidiary.
The company is also reviewing its entire asset portfolio,
including a 51 percent stake in a large eastern European
insurance joint venture with the Czech PPF group.
PPF has the option to sell its 49 percent of the venture as
of July 2014 to Generali or a third party at an estimated cost
of more than 2 billion euros. So far, Generali has made no
provisions on the possible purchase.
PPF is in talks with creditor banks to avoid the early
repayment of a 2 billion euro loan that could come due following
the July downgrade of Generali's credit rating.
CFO Minali said the downgrade in itself would not
immediately trigger an early exercise of the option.
"Our situation is unchanged compared with what announced
before," said Greco. "I don't think we should go deeper than
that in this discussion. These are normal negotiations about
cost and rates for the facility that the banks have in place."
Shares in Generali were down 2.4 percent at 1430 GMT against
a 2.2 percent fall in the European insurance index.
($1 = 0.7857 euro)
(Additional reporting by Paola Arosio; Writing by Lisa Jucca;
Editing by Stephen Jewkes and Mike Nesbit)