Italian publisher Gruppo De Agostini said on Monday it had started the process to sell its 1.44% stake in Generali but would still be in a position to exercise its voting rights at the insurer’s next shareholders’ meeting.
De Agostini said it appreciated the current management of Generali and expressed esteem for Chief Executive Philippe Donnet, saying he “stood out for his strategic vision, technical expertise and managerial thoroughness.”
Donnet, at the helm of the insurer since 2016, has come under fire from two shareholders – Italian businessman Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio – who have criticized his M&A strategy as too timid and want Generali to grow further.
The two investors have recently upped their stakes in Generali, with Caltagirone holding almost 7.2% of the insurer and Del Vecchio just over 5.72%. A shareholder pact putting the two together with banking foundation Fondazione CRT overall holds just above 14% of Generali’s shares.
But CEO Donnet can count on the support of the majority of the board and on Generali’s largest shareholder, Mediobanca , with 17.2% of voting rights.
The insurer is set to hold a meeting in April next year, when Donnet’s term expires and shareholders are due to vote on a new board.
De Agostini said in the statement that the first step in the disposal of its stake in Generali was the sale of over 2.2 million shares, or 0.14% of the insurer, through a derivative instrument.
It added that it would use the funds from the sale “to pursue new investment opportunities in the near future.”
(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; editing by Louise Heavens)
Photograph: The headquarters of Assicurazioni Generali SpA in Rome, Italy. Photo credit: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg
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