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MOSCOW, Dec 13 (Reuters) - French hypermarket operator Auchan is stepping up its investments in Russia, its third biggest market, saying the economy there has largely adapted to sanctions.
Auchan, which entered Russia in 2002, opened its 100th hypermarket in the country on Tuesday and said it aimed to add around 10 hypermarkets a year in Russia going forward as well as 20-30 supermarkets.
Russia's economy and currency were hit hard in 2014 when oil prices dropped, the West imposed sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine conflict and Russia retaliated with a food import ban. Both Western and Russia's sanctions are still in place.
"It's been two years now that sanctions are in place and Russia's economic model has changed. Customers buy different products, they have a different consumption model," the president of Auchan Russia, Jean-Pierre Germain, told reporters.
The company aims to invest 20 billion-30 billion roubles ($330 million-$490 million) a year going forward, he said.
"The investment budget is rising ... and we don't have a reason to lower it," Germain said.
An Auchan spokeswoman said the company would invest 20 billion-22 billion roubles in Russia this year, up from around 17 billion roubles in 2015, and more in 2017 than in 2016.
Since 2002, Auchan has invested around 200 billion roubles in opening stores in the country, now its third-biggest market by revenue after France and China.
It is also building a 2.5 billion rouble meat processing plant in the Tambov region in central Russia, which is due to open early in 2017. ($1 = 60.8460 roubles) (Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Olga Sichkar; Editing by Susan Fenton)