Recruitment and expansion plans are high on Vienna centre’s priorities. Antonio Fabrizio reports.
UniCredit Leasing’s know-how of renewable energy finance has been centralised in a competence centre launched in Vienna last year. From there, a team headed by Martin Mayr manages the lessor’s renewable business, which spans 17 countries.
The choice of Vienna lies within UniCredit Leasing’s expansion strategy in the CEE region – and is in line with the fact that most of the international business expertise is based there. However, the competence centre also operates through offices in Milan and Rome for Italian-based transactions.
According to Mayr, whose background includes a focus on CEE finance and larger projects, each country has developed a specific focus on a few products, and overall “there is a rich experience within the group”.
In terms of photovoltaic (PV) projects, Italy is the major country, followed by Czech Republic and Germany, and the company is “following some opportunities” in Romania and Bulgaria.
The Czech Republic, where UniCredit Leasing is the largest lessor, remains on top of the list and a special team is in operation there.
The “secure legal environment” and “the strong and fast product development” have been among the favourable conditions that have allowed UniCredit Leasing’s PV business to thrive of late.
Recent PV projects in the Czech Republic have included around 30 small-size utility projects (in the range of €3m to €5m) while around 200 smaller, roof-top projects are being developed in Italy at present.
Alongside these deals, the lessor is doing some project financing transactions which have a leasing element. The largest PV project in Slovenia is also about to be signed, totalling around €20m.
Regarding wind projects, according to Mayr “the most interesting opportunities are in Austria, Romania, Bulgaria”. A number of deals have also been signed in Italy, where the development, however, is slower and focused on mini-eolic generator projects.
“Wind is a technology which is interesting in all the countries, whereas with PV you usually have a few selected countries. However, we are signing projects all the time and this year we have seen an increase in PV deals,” he said.
Hydro plant projects are also being developed in Italy, Austria and Serbia, and biomass is increasing in Austria, Hungary and Germany.
According to Mayr, the deals’ structure is “typical for all cash flow based financing transactions: we would have a ring-fencing of the SPV – meaning that the project has to be autonomous within the SPV from a technical and managerial point of view”.
Mayr’s team in the competence centre – which includes five staff – is being increased to 12 people to reflect the increased business. Alongside this “core team”, there is one person in each country (and in some cases, like in the Czech Republic, a whole team) co-ordinating the business for renewable energy, and then the sales people across the network.
The launch of a website focusing only on the lessor’s renewable energy offer, and a number of conferences and renewable energy fairs complete the lessor’s involvement in the sector.
Mayr concluded: “We want to see ourselves and be recognised by others not just as a bank-owned leasing company, but also as part of the renewable energy community.”