Philippe Donnet during the presentation of Generali’s strategic plan in Milan, November 21, 2018 (AFP / Miguel MEDINA)
After a tough battle, the verdict fell: the shareholders of the Italian insurance Generali voted on Friday for the renewal of the CEO Philippe Donnet, thus causing the defeat of the two revolutionary billionaires who opposed.
Overall, 55.9% of the capital represented at the general meeting voted for the outgoing board list, while 41.7% chose that of the rival camp, headed by building mogul Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone.
“The majority spoke clearly and unequivocally about the list presented by the outgoing board,” commented the 61-year-old French polytechnic, Mr Donnet.
The slingshot against the CEO’s renewal had led to two major forms of Italian capitalism: 79-year-old Caltagirone and Leonardo Del Vecchio, 86, founder of the luxury glass company Luxottica and Italy’s second-largest asset.
Despite the failure, Mr Caltagirone remained a fighter: “As long as I think it makes sense, I will continue to work for change”, he warned in a press release, believing that “General could do better”.
According to him, the Italian shareholders who voted for his list “want Generali to remain a company with roots in Italy and affiliated with Italy”.
Mr. Donnet was able to count on the votes of Mediobanca, the main shareholder with 12.8% of the capital but 17.2% of the voting rights, of the holding company De Agostini (1.44%) and a series of investment funds, especially foreign ones. .
The choice of institutional shareholders, ie 35% of the capital, proved to be decisive for this unprecedented battle. The two main consulting firms ISS and Glass Lewis had recommended that they vote in favor of Mr Donnet’s list, which is considered more credible.
– Call for unity –
Mr Donnet is facing Luciano Cirina, 56, the former head of the Generali region of Eastern Europe, who had unsuccessfully sought the post of CEO. The band fired him shortly after the announcement of his candidacy.
ΜΜ. Caltagirone (9.95%) and Del Vecchio (9.82%) received support from the CRT Foundation (1.7%), Cassa Forense (1.1%) and the Benetton family (4.75%) , gathered in them, preferring the candidates of “business shareholders”.
“We will now work together resolutely to safeguard the interests of all shareholders,” Donnet promised, launching a call for unity.
At the next board meeting, which may meet on Monday, he will have to live with the three elected representatives of the rival camp, including Mr. Caltagirone, who left him in January to prepare his own list. The other ten members are from Mr Donnet’s list.
The slingshots published a plan in March that was presented as “more ambitious” than that of the CEO, called “Waking up the lion”, alluding to the insurance company’s emblem.
This plan expects earnings per share to increase by more than 14% per year by 2024, up from 6 to 8% projected by Mr Donnet, and is more generous in terms of mergers and acquisitions, with a $ 7 billion war scenario. euro.
– Does the lion wake up? –
Logo of the insurance company Generali in Milan. (AFP / Miguel MEDINA)
Opponents say Generali has lost ground to Allianz, Axa or Zurich Insurance, with a market capitalization that has shrunk by 8.2 billion euros over the past 15 years.
Proponents of Donnet argue that since joining in November 2016, the share price has risen by 55%, well above the industry average, and shareholder returns have risen by 106%. And in 2021, for the third consecutive year, the insurance company published record results.
Should Generali wake up? “The lion has already woken up in recent years, significant transformations have taken place,” Giuliano Noci, a professor of strategy at the Polytechnic University of Milan, told AFP.
But MM. Caltagirone and Del Vecchio probably have not said their last word.
They could thus increase pressure on Mediobanca, their main rival in the fight for control of Generali, whom they accuse of acting behind the scenes to impose its leaders.
The accusations against Mediobanca are even more explosive as the main shareholder is Mr. Del Vecchio, with a share of 19.4% and Mr. Caltagirone holds 3.1%.