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Benetton heir says Italy needs Europe but Brussels must improve ‘local knowledge’

  • Benetton heir backs Europe but says political class needs to listen to Italian vote.
  • Alessandro Benetton also dismissed suggestions that Italy should ditch the euro.
  • The private equity investor says Italian foirms in best position since 2007.

The heir to the billionaire family that owns Italian clothing company Benetton has said Europe will improve if Brussels can be more sensitive to local needs.

On Sunday, the Italian election failed to throw up a clear winner, although anti-establishment parties who have shown ambivalence toward the European Union (EU) performed well.

The result showed a shift in the country's political identity and Alessandro Benetton, who manages the private equity firm, 21 Investimenti, told CNBC on Tuesday that political classes must listen to such signals.

"If we are saying that Europe is not providing the sort of guidance that we have been waiting for then that is something we need to work around," he said.

"We have seen it in the Italian banking system. If you want to be global you need local knowledge so Europe needs to make more of a step in this direction."

The investor said that the future of Europe was not in question, but there was definitely an opportunity for the EU to listen in order to make the continent work better.

However, Benetton added that one recent suggestion by the Lega political party that the euro should be scrapped in Italy was impractical.

"It would be a disaster from a financial point of view — restructure of debt, competitiveness. I see no reason why anybody could believe that it is an acceptable direction," he said.

Benetton admitted that the political situation was "murky" and "fragmented" but said he felt Italian progress on economic reforms over the last two years would not suddenly halt.

Benetton said he has seen evidence that Italian firms are in their rudest health since before the global financial crisis. He said recent hurdles for Italian companies included tech disruption and shorter business life cycles, but now they are getting over the shock.

"Adapting to this new environment has been very painful but now are seeing a reaction," he said. "Since 2007, our companies in the portfolio, we have six or seven, are showing average growth of 50 percent turnover each year, 14 percent net profit and a doubling of employment rates."

The investor said his firm 21 Investimenti had focused on sectors that have been influenced by new technologies such as retailing and entertainment. It also invests in food and luxury firms.