March 22, 2017 / 6:03 PM / a year ago

Generali picks Rothschild to sell three Latam units - sources

LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - Generali has asked advisory bank Rothschild to find a new owner for its subsidiaries in Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, sources told Reuters, as Italy’s biggest insurer seeks to leave markets where it lacks scale.

Generali’s French boss Philippe Donnet aims to raise about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) by exiting 13 to 15 countries across the world in a bid to cut costs and improve returns.

Representatives of Generali declined to comment while Rothschild was not immediately available for comment.

Generali’s exit roadmap also includes a handful of European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal where it has a marginal presence, the sources said.

It is using different banks in each market, the sources said, adding Deutsche Bank has recently been tasked with reviewing options in Belgium.

They said a sale process could start after Generali wraps up the sale of its Dutch business, which generated 5.4 million euros in net profit in 2015. This process is led by French lender BNP Paribas and may attract interest from private equity investors among others.

Meanwhile Generali, which has more than 500 billion euros in invested assets, will continue investing in core Latin American markets such as Brazil and Argentina, the sources said, while operations in Colombia, Ecuador and Panama are deemed too small to justify its presence.

Rothschild is in the process of sounding out potential bidders for the three Latam countries, the sources said, adding information packages have been sent out to interested parties.

Local players are expected to submit offers for the three units which are being sold in separate auctions, one of the sources said.

Local firm Seguros de Vida Suramericana ranked as Colombia’s largest insurer in 2015, according to data from insurance ratings agency A.M. Best, while Panama’s Compania Internacional de Seguros and Ecuador’s Seguros Sucre dominated 2015 league tables in Panama and Ecuador, respectively.

Generali recently came under pressure as it tried to fend off a takeover attempt by Italy’s biggest retail bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, which was hoping to create a financial giant with a market value of around 60 billion euros.

On Feb. 24 Intesa decided against launching a takeover bid for Generali, arguing the deal would not create enough value for its investors.

The Italian insurer, whose biggest shareholder is investment bank Mediobanca, recently played down the prospects of a takeover as it reported its highest ever full-year operating profit and said it would raise dividends to boost value for shareholders.

$1 = 0.9252 euros Reporting By Pamela Barbaglia; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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