Egypt’s second-largest state bank, Banque Misr, has opened a representative office in Moscow to facilitate Egyptian investments in Russia, the bank said on Monday.
“One of the main targets that we set when opening the bank (in Russia) is to ensure good conditions for Egyptian businessmen who aim at investing in Russia,” Mohamed Mahmoud Eletreby, the bank’s chairman, said in an interview with Reuters.
Entering the Russian market is a rare move for a foreign lender. Most of the foreign banks opened their Russian branches before the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
Since 2014, when the West imposed sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and support of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, the inflow of foreign banks into Russia has dried up.
Eletreby said state-controlled Banque Misr would like to open branches in Russia’s major cities and have its own chain of ATMs. He said there was demand for ATMs from Egyptian football fans who plan to visit the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Speaking in Arabic through an interpreter to Russian, El Etreby said Banque Misr had no specific targets for its business in Russia but would like to see Egypt exporting more to Russia.
Bilateral trade between Egypt and Russia is on the rise though Egypt accounts for less than one percent of Russia’s foreign trade turnover.
According to the Russian customs service, trade turnover between Russia and Egypt increased 32.2 percent on the year in the first eight months of 2017 to $3.2 billion.
Russian exports to Egypt amounted to $2.8 billion in January-August, while Egypt’s exports to Russia totaled $0.4 billion.
Russia exports grain, metals, timber and fuel to Egypt where it buys fruit and vegetables, textiles along with chemical and pharmaceutical produce.
Economic ties between the two countries were hit in November, 2015 when Russia suspended flights to Egypt after a Russian plane crashed over Sinai killing all 224 on board.
Prior to that, Egypt was among the most popular foreign tourist destination for Russians.