Generali Second-Quarter Profit Falls as Investment Income Drops

Assicurazioni Generali SpA, Italy’s biggest insurer, said second-quarter profit fell 6 percent as low interest rates and volatile equity markets hurt investment gains.

Net income declined to 590 million euros ($654 million) from 626 million euros a year earlier, the Trieste-based company said in a statement on Friday. That compares with 594 million euros, the average of four analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“Financial performance continues to be impacted by volatile markets and low interest rates,” the company said in the statement. Despite the challenging environment in financial markets, Generali said it expects to improve shareholder remuneration in 2016.

European insurers like Generali are struggling to sustain earnings growth as investment returns fall and competition puts pressure on prices. Chief Executive Office Philippe Donnet, appointed in March to replace Mario Greco, is seeking to boost the retail business in Europe while focusing on cash generation and cost cutting. The insurer targets an operating return on equity of more than 13 percent this year.

The top management reshuffle “has re-introduced a governance discount that we expect to weigh on share price performance medium term,” Ralph Hebgen and Michele Ballatore, analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, wrote in a note July 8. Generali “has the capacity to grow operating earnings through efficiency gains.”

Generali’s regulatory solvency ratio fell to 161 percent from 171 percent at the end of 2015.