The calm elegance of a luxury hotel suite high above the hustle of midtown Manhattan wasn't enough to allay Vitaliy B. Malkin's frustration.

Mr. Malkin, president of Rossiyskiy Kredit Bank of Moscow, was in town seeking partners to invest in the next round of industrial privatization in Russia.

But his efforts to increase his visibility in the United States for his bank have been slowed, because its application to open a representative office here is in limbo.

New York State authorities said they need more information from Rossiyskiy before acting on the nearly year-old application.

U.S. banks are expanding much faster in Moscow, Mr. Malkin said. A representative office here "gives you a legal right to discuss and advertise Russian affairs," he said."It's strange not to let us be here. It's not fair, and there is no reciprocity."

U.S. banks with subsidiary branches in Moscow include Republic New York Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., and Citicorp, which also has a subsidiary branch in St. Petersburg. BankAmerica Corp. plans to open a subsidiary in Moscow this year.

Bank of New York and Bankers Trust also have nonbank subsidiary offices in Moscow, a spokesman for the Federal Reserve Board said.

Despite demonstrated staying power in weathering political and economic crises, Mr. Malkin said, Russian banks face a rigorous approval process in the United States.

The New York State Banking Department issues licenses for foreign banks to operate there, and the Federal Reserve investigates foreign banks' holding companies to ensure that banking is conducted properly.

Rossiyskiy Kredit Bank's application to open a representative office was listed in the March 20, 1997, weekly bulletin of the New York State Banking Department. The application is still active, but the department has not received all the information it has requested, a spokesman for the department said.

Only one Russian bank, Promstroybank of Russia has opened a representative office in the United States. Promstroybank, founded in 1922, opened its U.S. office Jan. 23, 1997, but the process took nearly two years and eight months, said Vladimir Sedov, Promstroybank's New York representative.

"The process of course was very tough, but also I understand why-because it was the first Russian bank," Mr. Sedov said. U.S. authorities are "trying to protect their territory" from problems that could come back to haunt them, he added.

The outlook for Russia's economy, coupled with Russian banks' reputation for being "a little bit wild and woolly," works against them, said Lawrence J. White, professor of economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University. Without the regulatory structure that exists here, the banking industry in Russia faces "something more like the conditions in the U.S. in the 1870s."

Rossiyskiy Kredit Bank was started in June 1990 with $10,000; now its assets total $2.5 billion, Mr. Malkin said. It is one of the six largest Russian banks, with a staff of 8,000 and more than 90 branches in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Rossiyskiy has representative offices in Hungary, Vietnam, China, and Bahrain, and subsidiaries in England and Switzerland. The bank makes investments in Russian industries, retail and wholesale banking, and trading securities.

Like most Russian banks, Rossiyskiy Kredit Bank has a single-B rating- non-investment grade-from Standard & Poor's.

"The banking system is still very fresh and new and fragile, because the banks are all new at what they're doing," said Tanya Azarchs, a banking analyst at the rating agency. "They tend to have a few large loans in their book rather than a broadly diversified loan portfolio," she said.

"There appears to be some sense that there has not been fair play here in terms of reciprocity," Ms. Azarchs said, but U.S. banks are "fairly restricted in what they can do in Russia."

Mr. Malkin said he expects to return to the United States in the spring to continue his efforts. Meanwhile the bank has hired Charles M. Dubroff, an attorney at Sullivan & Worcester LLP in New York, to assist in securing a representative office in New York.

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