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Exor has 6.5 billion euro firepower, no talks with Armani

Illustration shows Exor logo

By Giulio Piovaccari

MILAN (Reuters) -Exor, the holding company of Italy's Agnelli family, has around 6.5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in cash available for investments, including 5 billion euros for acquisitions, Chief Executive Officer John Elkann said on Wednesday.

Elkann said the company would invest around 5 billion euros in new companies it wants to buy, potentially a large one and three to five smaller ones, with a focus mainly on healthcare, luxury and technology.

But Elkann, the scion of the Agnelli family - the founders of carmaker Fiat now part of the Stellantis group - played down speculation that Exor was interested in buying Italian fashion group Giorgio Armani.

"Giorgio Armani is a company for which we have huge respect," he said. "There is no conversation with the company Giorgio Armani nor with Giorgio Armani himself."

Giorgio Armani, 88, is keeping succession plans for his privately-held group a secret, fuelling speculation of a possible acquisition, with Exor seen by analysts as an ideal candidate to buy it though it had repeatedly denied it.

Elkann said Exor was assessing possible M&A targets preferably among listed companies rather than private ones and with an aim to become their largest or controlling shareholder.

"The first assessment that we are doing in the universe of companies in Europe and in North America between 5 billion to 15 billion market caps is understanding the value and the price," he said.

Exor is the single largest investor in Stellantis and the controlling shareholder in companies including Ferrari, farming and construction machine maker CNH Industrial and soccer team Juventus.

It will also use around 1.5 billion euros of its cash for investments through its vehicles Ventures and newly-created Lingotto, which has around $2.4 billion under management, equally raised between Exor and French insurer Covea, Exor said.

Exor last year said the sale of its reinsurer unit PartnerRE to Covea, completed in July, would give it about 9 billion euros available for fresh investments.

Since then, the company has invested part of that money to buy stakes in healthcare groups Institut Merieux and Lifenet. It also used it for other purposes including to reduce debt and for share buy-backs. ($1 = 0.9668 euros)

(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari, editing by Alvise Armellini and Keith Weir)