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The foreigners are coming

Unlike nearly every other former Warsaw Pact country making the journey from central planning to a market economy, Russia has decided to shun the overtures of foreign banks and build up home-grown financing institutions instead.

But the tide seems to have turned and in the wake of recent wobbles a flood of foreign banks has arrived in Russia, announcing buyouts and tie-ups with leading Russian financial institutions.

A few tie-ups between Russian and foreign banks have already been completed. Swiss bank UBS bought a stake in local Russian investment bank Brunswick Capital Management before the 1998 financial crisis and in August moved to buy out its local partner's share. Deutsche Bank cut the first post-crisis deal in November 2003 by buying a 40% stake in leading Russian investment bank United Financial Group for an undisclosed sum.

However, the pace has suddenly picked up. Credit Suisse First Boston relaunched its brokerage operations at the end of 2003, suspended after the 1998 crisis. Other banks, such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Sweden's SEB, all have definite plans either to open new offices or expand existing tick-over operations.

Deutsche is moving fastest, saying in August that its mutual fund management arm, DWS Investments, one of the biggest asset management companies in Europe, would also open an office in Moscow.

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