Adds CEO comments, analyst comments, share price, detail on strategy

 
 By Pietro Lombardi 
 

Assicurazioni Generali SpA (G.MI) on Wednesday unveiled a three-year strategy aimed at improving earnings and expanding in selected markets, fueled in part by acquisitions.

"Generali will continue to focus on generating and managing capital to fund growth opportunities in key markets and drive innovation and digital transformation wherever we operate," Chief Executive Philippe Donnet said in a statement ahead of the company's investor day.

Specifically, Mr. Donnet said Generali would "expand operations in high-potential markets and develop a global asset management platform." Separately, he told the Financial Times that the company would set aside up to 4 billion euros ($4.57 billion) to fuel growth, both organically and through M&A.

The market received the 2019-2021 plan positively, with Generali shares gaining 2.3% at 0900 GMT, compared with the 1.3% rise on Italy's benchmark FTSE MIB index.

Generali sees earnings per share growing at an annual rate between 6% and 8% through 2021 and targets a dividend payout range between 55% and 65%. As part of the three-year strategy, it targets an average return on equity of more than 11.5%.

The company delivered a plan above expectations, U.S. bank Jefferies says. The EPS target "exceeds our expectations and, with a high payout target of 55%-65%, this supports higher dividend growth," it said.

Generali also plans to cut its debt by up to EUR2 billion by 2021, while growing earnings and investing EUR1 billion in innovation and digital transformation.

Analysts widely expected news on debt reduction, with Credit Suisse analysts recently saying they expected the company "to announce substantial deleveraging at its investor day."

The insurer plans to reinforce its business in Europe, a region that remains attractive, and "deliver profitable growth in Asia and Latin America," it said.

In Europe "high private-wealth accumulation will support the sale of Life and Asset Management products, while demographic trends and reduced public spending will drive the development of pension, health and welfare services," the company said.

In asset management, it also said it plans to "accelerate expansion with disciplined acquisitions."

Last year Generali launched a strategy for its asset-management unit focused on creating a multiboutique platform, and recently bought Polish asset-management company Union Investment TFI.

 

Write to Pietro Lombardi at pietro.lombardi@dowjones.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 21, 2018 04:27 ET (09:27 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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