Assicurazioni Generali SpA, Italy’s biggest insurer, may invest at least 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to grow through mid-size acquisitions in insurance and asset management, according to Chief Executive Officer Philippe Donnet.
“I don’t believe in big consolidation, because of risk management, regulation,” Donnet said in an interview. “I believe there will be some aggregation in asset management and insurance in Europe — some of the smaller companies won’t be able to deal with low interest rates for so long — definitely we’ll be proactive in these aggregations.”
The Italian insurer aims to expand in growing markets to boost profit. As part of the effort, the company agreed to acquire Portugal’s second-largest non-life insurer, Seguradoras Unidas, and the service company AdvanceCare for 600 million euros in July. “After this acquisition, we still have at least three billion euros to invest for growth,” he said.
In insurance, the CEO is looking at mid-size companies focusing on non-life, health, benefits and assistance. While not discussing specific targets, he said continental Europe would be the focus of any insurance acquisitions. “We want to grow in countries where we are already present to become one of the top three players,” Donnet said. Malaysia, Thailand and Brazil, are also possible regions to search for targets, according to the executive.
In asset management, Generali is looking at possible deals in the U.S., Asia and Europe, including the U.K. Despite issues related to Brexit, the CEO is attracted to the U.K. because of the skills and expertise of London asset managers.
Generali is in talks to buy the Central European assets of MetLife Inc. and some of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA’s insurance businesses, people with knowledge of the matter have said.
Generali’s strategic plan released last year predicts annual earnings per share growth of 6% to 8% annually by improving profitability in both insurance and money management and cutting debt. The CEO announced in November the firm will invest as much as 4 billion euros in acquisitions and internal growth over the life of the plan.
Life insurance providers are under pressure as a prolonged period of low interest rates hurts firms that buy bonds and other securities to meet payout obligations. As a large holder of Italian sovereign debt, Generali is vulnerable to swings in the value of government bonds driven by political turmoil.
“M&A is a good accelerator, but only if you’re successful” in terms of organic growth, Donnet said. “I’m convinced that we will find the right opportunities.”