MILAN, March 16 Italy's biggest insurer Generali
hiked its 2016 dividend on Thursday and pledged higher
shareholder returns going forward after posting its best net
profit in nine years.
Generali, which is seeking to boost its defences against the
threat of a possible takeover, also said it would deliver on its
promise to cut costs by 200 million euros a year earlier in 2018
rather than 2019.
The insurer, which said it was confident in a future as an
independent company, declared a dividend of 0.8 euros per share
on its 2016 results, up from 0.72 euros a share the previous
Net profits last year rose 2.5 percent to 2.081 billion
euros ($2.2 billion), in line with an analyst consensus provided
by the company, boosted by better life and non-life business.
The insurer emerged as a potential bid target in January
when Italy's biggest retail bank Intesa Sanpaolo
revealed that it was looking at a potential combination, a plan
that Intesa later scrapped.
($1 = 0.9313 euros)
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Gianluca Semeraro, editing by