Sace, the credit insurance group owned by Italy’s ministry of economy and finance, is set to establish a formal presence in Turkey through the opening, in June 2010, of a representative office in Istanbul.

Michal Ron, Sace’s head of international relations and network, calls the move – which was officially approved by the ECA’s board on April 7 – its “next biggest initiative for the coming year”.

The new office will be headed up by Marco Ferioli, a senior account manager for Sace’s Milan office, currently responsible for top-tier and large corporates based in Northern Italy.

Before joining Sace, Ferioli worked in the export and project finance division of Snamprogetti (part of the ENI Group) and in the credit management and financial planning of the Pirelli Group. “

Effectively he has already been covering all of the major clients that are operating in Turkey,” says Ron. “This new role will be a continuity to his current work as he is very experienced with the specific target group we have identified in Turkey.”

Italy is one of Turkey’s most important business partners and represents one of the country’s top five investors, according to Ron, there are over 750 Italian companies active in the Turkish market in several industrial sectors (including banking, energy and natural resources), and Turkey represents about 8% (€2.6bn) of Sace’s total exposure.

“We are not unfamiliar with Turkey – on the contrary, we have been operating in Turkey for several years now,” says Ron. “We already have a very significant exposure in Turkey.”

“For 2010, we expect GDP to grow by 4% and imports from Italy to rise by around 9% due to the increase of internal demand,” Ron predicts.

Considering the positive market outlook for Turkey and the strategic role of Turkish expansion on behalf of Italian companies, Ron explains that Sace’s new office in Istanbul will act as a reference point for Italian exporters and their local partners.

It will enable the Italian ECA to further expand its Turkish operations and meet the growing demand for support to investments in Turkey and its neighbouring countries (including Iraq and Syria).

“The project pipeline under evaluation in Turkey is significant both in terms of volume and number of transactions. It covers all industrial sectors, with an emphasis on energy, aviation, machinery and chemicals,” says Ron. “We foresee an extra €1bn for the coming year in terms of the pipeline projects that might be finalised in the country in 2010.”

Ron explains that Sace’s new presence within the Turkish market will take full advantage of the existing cooperation agreement with local consultant PFS Finance.

Istanbul-based PFS Finance is a Turkish company that specialises in export credit and structured finance and has been assisting Sace in the evaluation and structuring of financial operations in Turkey with regard to corporate and bank counterparts, with the underlying objective of enhancing the competitiveness and penetration of Italian companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and financial institutions in the country.

According to Ron, Sace will remain in partnership with the PFS Finance even after the new office has been set up. “We will be present, but we will continue to enjoy this partnership, which we see as highly complementary.”

The Istanbul office brings Sace’s total number of overseas representative offices to five. The ECA’s other overseas representative offices are in Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Moscow and Hong Kong.

As part of its three-year strategic plan, Sace plans to expand its network abroad by setting up a representative office in Bucharest, Romania – to cover the Balkans region – and a satellite office in Mumbai, India in the longer term.