ECB QE needs to buy shares as well as bonds: Generali

Recession-hit Italy needs the European Central Bank (ECB) to launch a full-scale quantitative easing program (QE) in order to buy Italy – and the rest of Europe – time to enact reforms, the chief information officer at Generali told CNBC, but the bank needs to go "beyond sovereign bonds."

"If you do QE – and you don't just do it in bonds, you should do it in equities as well – and I think it's very, very important that it goes beyond sovereign bonds," Nikhil Srinivasan told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday, "you buy more time and then you need the governments in France and Italy and wherever else to implement the reforms they're meant to implement."

Speaking to CNBC in Milan, Srinivasan said that he believed the ECB President Mario Draghi had "done his best" in the euro zone, but now there was "no other option" but to launch a full scale sovereign bond-buying program.

The ECB is considering sovereign bond purchases as a way to stimulate the deflation-hit euro zone and could announce a program when it meets on January 22.

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Although there has been no final decision over what exact form such a program could take, sovereign bond-buying was given a green light, in principle, by the European Court of Justice on Wednesday, which was responding to a legal challenge against QE's predecessor, Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT).

Generali, Italy's biggest insurer with 460 billion euros worth of assets under management and 77,000 global employees, was optimistic about Europe's outlook, Srinivasan said, although ECB and European government monetary and fiscal policy "had to change."

Failure not an option

There is growing pressure on Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to press on with controversial structural reforms, such as overhauling its rigid labor system, as the Italian economy --the third largest in the euro zone -- fails to thrive.

Italy is still in recession, according to the most recent growth data, with an unemployment rate of 13.4 percent in November, according to Eurostat. Youth unemployment, meanwhile, stood at 43.9 percent.

Despite the gloom, Italy is hopeful that it will exit recession in 2015.

The country's statistics agency ISTAT forecast in November that the economy would exit recession in 2015 and grow 0.5 percent, although it believed economic growth would continue to be weak.

Generali's Srinivasan insisted that failure was not an option for Renzi.

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"It's slow, it needs to be faster, but you can't underestimate the level of problem that the Prime Minister has and for him to just deliver, within a year, what should have been delivered over the last several decades is unimaginable so I think he's doing his best."

"He can't fail, he just has to keep pressing on," Srinivasan added. "I don't know whether he can turn it around or not, but I really hope he does."

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, is certainly hopeful that Italy can turn it around. In November, the commission released a set of forecasts for the Italian economy in 2015. It also forecast 0.5 percent annual gross domestic product growth but forecast that unemployment would remain stubborn, at 12.6 percent.

Adding to the gloom, however, the commission also predicted that the country's debt to GDP ratio would rise further to 133.8 percent. The size of Italy's debt pile is second only to Greece in the euro zone.

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