March 14, 2019 / 7:11 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 2-Italy's Generali to turn to Europe, Asia and U.S for growth

(Recasts lead, adds comments from conference call, analyst reports)

By Gianluca Semeraro

MILAN, March 14 (Reuters) - Italy’s top insurer Generali said it was ready to look around for growth opportunities in Europe, Asia and the U.S. on Thurssday and said it was well positioned to achieve the targets it set in November for the years until 2021.

Europe’s No 3 insurer has earmarked up to 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) for acquisitions and growth as it looks to asset management and other higher margin businesses to fuel earnings.

“I confirm all the targets of the plan (including) an annual EPS (earnings per share) growth target of between 6 and 8 percent,” Chief Executive Philippe Donnet said in a media call.

Generali earlier said it had increased operating profit by 3 percent last year and that it would pay a dividend of 0.90 euros per share, up from 0.85 euros the previous year.

“We believe Generali’s new strategy is well on track and the current dividend yield is still very attractive,” Banca Akros analyst Enrico Esposti said following the results.

Shares in Generali were up 1.1 percent, in line with the European insurance sector, at 1552 GMT.

Donnet, who has been CEO since 2016, said Generali would seek selected insurance acquisitions in Europe and asset management deals outside, especially in Britain, the United States and Asia.

And in the last three years Generali has raised 1.5 billion euros from disposals, exiting several non-strategic countries.

The insurer said its net profit last year rose 9.4 percent to 2.3 billion euros, in line with an analysts’ consensus forecast of 2.38 billion euros, while operating profit stood at 4.86 billion, just above expectations of 4.82 billion. ($1 = 0.8836 euros) (Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro; Editing by Stephen Jewkes, Mark Potter and Alexander Smith)

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