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MOSCOW (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) will franchise out restaurants in Russia for the first time after picking the sector's largest restaurant holding company Rosinter ROST.MM as its partner in the fast-growing market.
McDonald's, which relies heavily on franchises in more mature markets such as the United States, has so far been expanding in Russia through self-operated stores only.
The agreement with Rosinter is aimed at "growth and expansion", said Khamzat Khasbulatov, McDonald's Russia president.
"If this model proves successful, we will start to spread it around. We are looking at a long-term perspective," he told Reuters, adding the model could in future help it to tap remote Russian regions such as the Far East.
Western restaurant chains have made Russia a top priority as rising wages and consumer spending have increased growth prospects in the emerging market.
The test project will see Rosinter open McDonald's restaurants in airports and railway stations, said Khasbulatov. He refused to provide more details, saying only that expansion through self-operated restaurants remained a priority in Russia.
McDonald's, which first opened in Moscow in 1990, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, has 314 stores in Russia and plans to open 40-45 new self-operated locations each year.
Rosinter already operates the T.G.I. Friday franchise in Russia and has a joint venture with Britain's Whitbread (WTB.L) to develop its Costa Coffee brand.
The agreement with Rosinter comes as more international restaurant chains flock into Russia.
U.S. sandwich chain Quiznos unveiled a partnership with local franchisee QRL in March and said it would open more than 20 locations by 2014.
Wendy's/Arby's WEN.N opened its first Russian restaurant last June in partnership with Russian company Wenrus, while Burger King entered the market in 2010.
U.S. competitor Subway, the world's No.2 restaurant chain by sales, has announced plans to expand its Russian network to 1,000 outlets by 2015.
Additional reporting and writing by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by John Bowker and Mark Potter