Generali activist investors call for ‘open dialogue’

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The Generali logo is seen on the company building in Milan, Italy, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

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MILAN, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Two activist investors at Generali (GASI.MI) urged Italy’s top insurer on Tuesday to engage in “open and constructive dialogue” to overcome problems that have held back its growth.

Generali is at the center of a shareholder battle pitting a group of investors including eyewear billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio against its main shareholder Mediobanca (MDBI.MI).

Del Vecchio’s investment vehicle Delfin and banking foundation Fondazione CRT said it was important for a company of strategic importance to Italy such as Generali to engage with shareholders and respect their rights.

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Delfin, Generali’s third investor, and CRT said their consultation pact on Generali remains in place, as they seek to provide their views on what the insurer’s future should be after investing “significant amounts” in it. important resources”.

“Delfin and Fondazione CRT are long-term shareholders,” they said in a joint statement.

“As such, they firmly believe that only an open and constructive dialogue… can set the insurer on a path of sustainable growth, overcoming the issues that have affected its competitive positioning in Europe.”

Generali declined to comment.

Del Vecchio and fellow construction magnate Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone, a construction tycoon who is Generali’s second-largest investor, have complained in the past that Generali lags behind peers such as France’s AXA or Germany’s Allianz (ALVG.DE).

Generali for its part pointed out that its total shareholder returns since CEO Philippe Donnet presented his first business plan in November 2016 exceed those of AXA and Allianz.

Throwing the gauntlet at Mediobanca, Del Vecchio and Caltagirone joined forces in September in a consultation pact which was later joined by CRT. The two tycoons are both investors in Mediobanca, of which Del Vecchio owns nearly 20%.

Caltagirone left the Generali pact last month to avoid regulatory scrutiny before proposing a list of candidates for Generali’s board renewal in April.

Del Vecchio and Caltagirone have questioned the reappointment of Donnet, who is backed by Mediobanca and faces a shareholder vote in April.

People familiar with their thinking said they believed Generali had preferred to pay dividends over expansion through mergers and acquisitions.

After backing Donnet’s first two business plans, Caltagirone voted against the CEO’s new strategy in December while a Delfin representative did not attend the board meeting. They have both left the board of Generali since then.

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Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi, writing by Valentina Za Editing by Keith Weir

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