MILAN — The challengers to Generali’s current management and business strategy pledged to grow earnings by double-digits while targeting “fewer but larger” M&A deals for Italy’s largest insurer.
Claudio Costamagna, proposed as the candidate for chairman by a leading investor in the company, was quoted as saying the rival plan, envisages “substantial” savings.
The plan is dubbed “Awakening the Lion,” a reference to Generali’s nickname “The Lion of Trieste.”
“When I talked with investment bankers, the most common definition [of Generali] was a sleeping beauty,” Costamagna told the Financial Times.
“It has huge potential, but still halfway sleepy and we want to awaken it.”
Generali is facing a power struggle over its board composition at a shareholder vote next month.
Italian tycoons Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and Leonardo Del Vecchio who are, respectively, Generali’s second- and third-largest investors, are opposing the reappointment of current Chief Executive Philippe Donnet as they challenge the influence of the insurer’s top shareholder Mediobanca.
The outgoing board, backed by Mediobanca, has put forward Donnet for a third term as CEO and nominated Andrea Sironi, a leading international expert in governance and risk management, as new chairman.
Caltagirone has proposed Generali’s head of Austria and CEE countries, Luciano Cirina as CEO and Costamagna, a former Goldman Sachs banker and former chairman of Italian state investor CDP, as chairman.
Cirina and Costamagna plan to hold a news conference later on Friday.
In an interview with Italy’s daily Il Sole 24 Ore on Friday, Caltagirone said that Cirina and Costagnamagna are complementary personalities, “two sides of the same coin.”
He added he wants to grow Generali into a big multinational “with Italian sovereignty” and a focus on asset management in the US and on the Life & P&C business in Europe.
Generali said that Donnet, who has been CEO since 2016, led the company to its best performance ever last year, and that his latest plan had been received “very positively” by the finanical market.
“The board has presented a very solid list made of excellent and qualified individuals with international experience, who will work in the interest of all stakeholders and not to the benefit of specific shareholders,” Generali said in a statement. (Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi and Stefano Bernabei, writing by Maria Pia Quaglia, editing by Agnieszka Flak and Keith Weir)