MILAN, May 19 (Reuters) - Italy’s Benetton family wants to increase its stake in Generali and believes that Europe’s third-biggest insurer must remain in Italian hands, Luciano Benetton said in an interview published in La Repubblica.
Luciano is one of the four siblings who founded the Benetton industrial empire, which ranges from the eponymous clothing company to the infrastructure group Atlantia.
Edizione, the Benetton family holding company, emerged as an Italian buttress against foreign takeovers of Generali, after increasing its stake in the insurer together with Italian entrepreneurs Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and Leonardo Del Vecchio.
“With Caltagirone and Del Vecchio, together we make a good Italian front. We have a sizeable Italian stake that, all three together, we want to increase”, Benetton said.
French insurer Axa and Switzerland’s Zurich Insurance have been viewed as potential buyers of Generali.
“We think that Generali must remain an Italian company.”
Luciano Benetton also said that Atlantia had not received a proposal to invest in Italian carrier Alitalia, adding that the group’s managers retained the trust of the family after the deadly collapse of a bridge operated by the Atlantia’s motorway unit.
Italy’s government had said the Benettons were greedy speculators and threatened to revoke Atlantia’s concession, citing poor maintenance of the motorway network.
Sources have told Reuters that the government would be prepared to mend its relations with the Benettons and Atlantia in exchange for the company’s help in rescuing loss-making airline Alitalia.
“There has been no meeting, no proposal, nothing at all,” he said.
The Benetton clothing company will swing back to profit in 2020 and will open a hundred new stores, the entrepreneur said.
Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro and Francesca Landini, editing by Louise Heavens