(Recasts, adds executive comment, analysts, shares)
MILAN, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Italy’s top insurer Generali on Wednesday said it is aiming to become a top player in asset management after confirming its 2021 financial targets despite the pandemic.
At an investor day on Wednesday, the insurer said asset management allowed it to expand its customer base and diversify revenues which it said remained resilient in the face of the health emergency.
The group’s long-term ambition is to position Generali among the top five multi-boutiques in the world by profits, it said. These are usually specialised investment divisions operating under the umbrella of a larger company.
“We have 2.5 billion euros for further acquisitions,” the insurer’s general manager Frederic de Courtois said in a presentation.
Slim, or even negative, yields are prompting insurers to expand asset management businesses to diversify investments that were traditionally focused on government and investment-grade bonds.
Chief Executive Philippe Donnet told the Financial Times newspaper on Wednesday the insurer was happy with its majority stake in Italian asset manager Banca Generali and was not in talks to sell it.
Europe’s third-biggest insurer confirmed dividends totaling 4.5-5.0 billion euros in 2019-2021 and a dividend payout of 55%-65%, subject to the regulatory outlook, after it delayed the second tranche of 2019 dividends to next year as requested by Italian regulators.
“We will start dividend payments as soon as we are allowed,” Donnet said at the investor day.
The insurer also confirmed a target of a 6-8% average annual growth in earnings per share and an average return on equity of more than 11.5%.
“Confirmation of the targets... is positive news, as it confirms the resiliency to the pandemic and to a challenging interest rate scenario,” Italian broker Equita said.
Generali’s shares were up around 0.32%, in line with the European insurance sector.
The virus pandemic has led to lockdowns in many economies and a rising number of insurance claims as travel and events are cancelled and businesses disrupted.
Generali is less exposed than rivals to some of the business lines worst hit by the virus but it still expects lower profits this year due to fallout from the health crisis.
The insurer said it expected an additional 100 million euros in recurrent savings by 2021, adding it had met its debt reduction target one year ahead of time. (Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro and Stephen Jewkes, editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman)
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