After probing the territory and determining opportunity, MBIA has opened an office in Milan, Italy, headed up by Luigi Stefano. Stefano will focus on Italy and Greece.
The international effort is led out of MBIA's London office, under the charge of Vice Chairman Jack Caouette. According to Caouette, as countries throughout Europe work to decentralize their banking systems, project finance-type deals will need enhancement.
Typically, these deals have had sovereign sponsorship in the past, but there's a trend away from this throughout the continent, partially because Europe is attempting to homogenize at the sovereign level, which has taken on more importance since the advent of the euro.
"The sub-sovereigns are finding ways to finance [without the help of the country's central bank]," Caouette said. "If that happens, there will be more opportunity to help organizations access the capital markets."
MBIA has already wrapped a few deals in Italy, including the Autostrada toll road financing and a securitization for Rome Airport. The monoline has wrapped a few leasing deals as well. "Italy has been a fairly active market for securitization," Caouette said.
According to MBIA, the firm's non-U.S. public and structured finance business rose 82% in 2003, as a measure of adjusted direct premiums, year-over-year. This amounted to roughly $662 million in 2003 versus $363.5 in 2002.
MBIA already has satellite offices in Paris and Madrid.