Generali earnings beat amid radical transformation

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Italy's largest insurer Generali reported first first-half net profit on Thursday that beat market expectations, its strongest half-year performance in five years.

Earnings came in at 1.08 billion euros ($1.4 billion) versus estimates in a Reuters poll of 1.05 billion euros. Operating profit grew to 2.4 billion euros, driven mainly by premium income in its property and casualty (P&C) unit and higher business margins.

Generali, Europe's third largest insurer, has been undergoing a radical transformation since Chief Executive Mario Greco took office last August. The group said on Thursday that its debt had been reduced by 500 million euros to 12.7 billion euros in the first half and it expects a higher operating result for 2013 than it did in the previous year.

(Read more: Insurer Generali beats expectations with profit rise)

Greco said that the company had made significant strides in strengthening its capital position and improving operational and financial performance.

The company hopes to double operating profit from the current level by 2015 and Greco told CNBC that those forecasts are still on track. He said a cost cutting program will be presented this November.

Greco said that the firm will use the 2.5 billion euros of cash it expects to receive from depositors in the second half of the year to reduce its 12.7 billion euros in debt.

"We will surely use it to reduce the amount of debt over the next years, and we will continue doing that," he told CNBC.