MILAN Feb 4 (Reuters) - The European arm of Chinese rating agency Dagong is targeting a 5 percent market share by 2018 as it seeks to bring competition into a market dominated by Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, its general manager said on Monday.
"We want to give investors a real choice, a different point of view for ratings... For European debt issuers this boils down to easier access to Chinese and Asian capital," Mauro Alfonso told Reuters in a phone interview.
"Our objective is to reach a 5 percent market share in the next five years with a turnover of 9-10 million euros," he said.
The new ratings agency is going through a complex authorisation process with the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) in Paris in what is seen as a test case for the regulator which, for the first time, has been asked to give its go-ahead to a ratings agency start-up.
Alfonso said authorisation from ESMA, which Dagong Europe requested some six months ago and which is needed to start operations, was expected by the end of the first half of the year.
European officials backed the need for more competition in the ratings sector after a series of downgrades last year exacerbated Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
Once up and running, the Milan-based agency will have a staff of up to 50 people. On Monday it announced two new hires, completing its first-line management team.
Dagong Europe will produce ratings for financial institutions and corporate entities across the 27 nations of the European Union. It will not rate structured finance products, while sovereign debt will remain with Dagong Global in Beijing.
"We will start with 5-6 specific sectors which we are currently pinning down. Our target market is the first 100 debt issuers in Europe," he said.
Dagong Europe was established in April 2012 in Milan by Dagong Global and Mandarin Capital Partners, a Sino-Italian private equity group whose investors include Italy's largest retail bank Intesa Sanpaolo.