German retail giant Metro is to invest €200m (US$234.9m) a year in its operations in Russia for the next five years.

The company has already established a presence in Moscow and St Petersburg and now intends to start to expand into the regions, including the opening of its first outlet in the Volga-Don region by the end of the year, reported the Moscow Times.

Metro, which opens its fourth cash and carry store in Moscow this week and its second store in St Petersburg next week, posted revenues of €287m in 2002 and is expecting to double sales this year.

Asked if the company’s Russian operations are profitable, CEO Hans-Joachim Koerber said it was still in its startup phase. “We are investing in the country and profit is not our primary focus. Our focus is gaining market share and developing our business,” he was quoted by the Moscow Times as saying.

By 2005, Metro plans to spend €400m on expanding the chain to 20 stores, including several of its Real brand hypermarkets.