Half Mag / Half Zine

UniCredit (CRDI.MI) Chief Executive Andrea Orcel said focusing on capital generation was the right strategy for the Italian bank as its shareholders on Wednesday approved a 1 billion euro ($1 billion) share buyback.

UniCredit’s second buyback this year brings the overall capital distribution on 2021 earnings to 3.75 billion euros, as Orcel works towards a goal of returning more than 16 billion euros to shareholders by 2024.

The former head of investment banking at UBS, who last week forecast a “shallow recession” ahead for Europe, has said UniCredit will be able to meet most of its distribution goals even if the economy contracts.

Orcel aims to pay out another 3.75 billion euros in shares and dividends on this year’s earnings.

UniCredit’s distribution plans had appeared at risk after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, given its significant exposure to the sanctions-hit country.

“This confirms the validity of our business model focused on high capital generation,” Orcel said.

UniCredit, which generated internally more than one percentage point of additional core capital in the first half of the year, expects to kick off the buyback in the next couple of weeks.

Shareholders representing 64.42% of UniCredit’s capital attended the meeting, including U.S. asset manager BlackRock (BLK.N) with a 5.68% stake, London-based Parvus Asset Management with 5.47% and German insurer Allianz (ALVG.DE) with 3.44%.

The buyback was approved with 99.34% of votes.

Shares in the bank rose 1.4% by 1214 GMT outperforming a 0.8% rise in Italy’s banking index (.FTITLMS3010).

($1 = 1.0003 euros)