Benetton family wants Generali to stay in Italian hands: report

MILAN (Reuters) - The Benetton family wants Generali to remain in Italian hands and is ready to tighten its grip on Europe’s third-biggest insurer along with other Italian investors, Luciano Benetton said in a newspaper interview.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Italy's biggest insurer Assicurazioni Generali is seen in central Rome, Italy, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

Luciano is one of the four siblings who founded the Benetton industrial empire, which ranges from the eponymous clothing company to infrastructure group Atlantia and travel caterer Autogrill.

Edizione, the Benetton family holding company, emerged as an Italian buttress against a potential foreign takeover of Generali, after increasing its stake in the insurer along with Italian entrepreneurs Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and Leonardo Del Vecchio.

“With Caltagirone, Del Vecchio together we make a good Italian front. We have a sizeable Italian stake that, all three together, we want to increase”, Luciano Benetton told La Repubblica.

French insurer Axa and Switzerland’s Zurich Insurance have been viewed as potential buyers of Generali.

“We think that Generali must remain an Italian company.”

Luciano Benetton also said Atlantia had not received a request to invest in Italian carrier Alitalia, adding Atlantia’s managers retained the trust of the family after the deadly collapse of a bridge operated by the firm’s motorway unit.

After the disaster that killed 43 people, Italy’s government said the Benettons were greedy speculators and threatened to revoke Atlantia’s concession, citing poor maintenance of the motorway network.

The Benettons and the company have always denied any wrongdoing and the entrepreneur reiterated the group had done the proper maintenance for the infrastructures it managed.

Sources have told Reuters the government would be prepared to mend relations with the Benettons and Atlantia in exchange for the company’s help in rescuing loss-making airline Alitalia.

“There has been no meeting, no proposal, nothing at all,” Luciano Benetton said, adding, however, that it was important the Alitalia brand remained in Italian hands.

The entrepreneur also said former Telecom Italia boss Marco Patuano would not be offered a second term as the CEO of Edizione, the company which manages the Benettons stakes in Atlantia, Autogrill, Generali and other companies.

Patuano’s mandate ends on May 24.

His successor will be an Edizione’s insider, but not a family member, Luciano Benetton said.

The Benetton clothing company will swing back to profit in 2020 and will open a hundred new stores, he also said.

Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro and Francesca Landini, Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter