MILAN, July 4 (Reuters) - Russia’s RDIF sovereign fund will sign a deal with Italy’s state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) to jointly invest 300 million euros ($338 million) in Italian firms looking to expand their businesses in Russia, the fund’s head said.
“CDP has a large portfolio of companies and we’ll be working closely with them to promote investments in Russia,” Kirill Dmitriev said in a phone interview with Reuters.
The agreement will be signed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and CDP later on Thursday on occasion of the state visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Rome.
Foreign investment from Italy has significantly dropped off since the imposition of sanctions on Russia following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and tensions in Ukraine.
But last year Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pledged to boost economic ties between the two countries.
Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s right-wing ruling League party, has long been a fervent admirer of Putin and has called for an end to Western sanctions which have hurt Italian exports.
“This visit by President Putin is going to play a big role in promoting additional economic and investment cooperation projects between Italy and Russia,” Dmitriev said.
“Made in Italy” brands have become increasingly popular in Russia in recent years.
Dmitriev said Italian pasta maker Barilla was interested in expanding its business in Russia, with a deal expected in the third quarter, while tire manufacturer Pirelli wanted to continue modernising and expanding its plant in Voronezh.
He also said the fund was working with Italy’s biggest utility Enel to develop more wind and alternative energy plants in the country. ($1 = 0.8868 euros) (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes Editing by Mark Heinrich)