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Generali eyes Russian market


VIENNA, Austria—Generali Vienna Group, which expanded into three Central and Eastern European countries last year, is currently eyeing the Russian market, although it has no immediate plans, said Werner Moertel, the group's chief operating officer for CEE.

"We are doing some research, we have some contacts, but there is no decision yet to enter the market," said Mr. Moertel at a press conference Wednesday announcing the group's 2006 results.

The question, he explained, is how to enter the market, whether through a start-up operation or in partnership with an existing insurer. As an initial step, Generali noted it had received a license last week to sell European travel insurance in Russia.

The Russian market is "absolutely interesting, but it is for sure not easy and it takes a lot of consideration," Mr. Moertel said. "You have to really consider it twice ... but it is still in our plans to do something." He did not expect a decision in 2007.

Generali entered three CEE countries in 2006: Bulgaria, Serbia and Ukraine. The insurer already has operations in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Poland and Croatia.

In 2006, Generali's premium income in the region topped a billion euros for the first time, the company said. Premium growth grew by 29%, to a total €1.1 billion ($1.47 billion). CEE will remain the leading European growth markets for the next "10 to 20 years," Mr. Moertel said.

Overall, Generali Vienna Group's premium income grew by 16.5% last year to a new record high of €3.4 billion ($4.5 billion). In Austria, the group's largest market, consolidated premium income grew by 12% to €2.3 billion ($3.1 billion), the company reported.