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Generali finance chief to leave, takeover talk mounts

By Stephen Jewkes

By Stephen Jewkes

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's Assicurazioni Generali <GASI.MI> said on Wednesday its chief financial officer Alberto Minali would be leaving at the end of the month, at a time of uncertainty for the country's biggest insurer.

The departure of Minali comes a day after Italy's biggest retail bank Intesa Sanpaolo <ISP.MI> said it was considering the idea of a tie-up with Generali in a move that could reshape the country's financial landscape.

Generali, whose biggest shareholder is influential investment bank Mediobanca <MDBI.MI>, said on Monday it had bought voting rights equal to 3.01 percent of Intesa, in a defensive move.

In a statement, Generali said Minali, who is also general manager at the group, would be replaced as CFO by head of corporate finance Luigi Lubelli.

It added Minali would receive a severance package of around 5.78 million euros ($6.2 million), plus a payment related to his long-term bonus package that was yet to be quantified, and said his role as general manager would not be replaced.

Last year, Minali lost out to Philippe Donnet in the race to replace Mario Greco as CEO of Europe's No. 3 insurer and sources close to the matter told Reuters tensions have built up between the two.

Recent leadership changes at Generali and political weakness in Rome have helped kindle bid talk about the 186-year-old company which for years has been at the crossroads of Italian finance.

Italian newspapers have said Intesa's move is in part aimed at fending off interest in Generali from foreign companies such as France's AXA <AXAF.PA> and Germany's Allianz <ALVG.DE>.

Donnet was formerly an executive of AXA.

Generali and Allianz have declined to comment, while AXA CEO Thomas Buberl said in remarks published Wednesday he was not interested in a bid for Generali.

Italian market regulator Consob, which met Intesa managers on Wednesday, is due to meet on Thursday executives of Generali and lender UniCredit <CDRI.MI>, the top investor in Mediobanca.

Like other European insurers, Generali has had to cope with falling investment returns and stiffer competition.

The company, which generates most of its revenues and earnings in Italy, France and Germany, said in November it was looking to leave unattractive markets and cut costs to improve profits and boost capital.

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Valentina Za; Editing by Valentina Za and Mark Potter)