Merrill Lynch has expanded its presence in Russia, one of its core markets, announcing Friday that it acquired a 10 percent stake in TRUST Banking Group, a potential top 20 private bank in Russia in terms of capital and assets.

Both firms will benefit from each others' expertise, according to comments from company executives. Merrill (NYSE:MER), the world's biggest brokerage, will advise TRUST on the development of its commercial and capital markets business. Meanwhile, aside from increased financial returns, Merrill will leverage the retail-and-investment bank's local knowledge, according to a released statement

For Merrill Lynch, this transaction is a further demonstration of our commitment to Russia as one of our core markets, Andrew Gzitua, COO of Global Origination and head of CEEMEA Origination said.

The Trust Banking Group is a combination of TRUST investment Bank and National Bank TRUST. Both firms are expected to complete a merger by 2008 under the 'National Bank TRUST' name. The combined assets of both firms total $3.98 billion. The amount of the acquisition was not disclosed.

TRUST is a regionally focused bank, present in 142 cities in Russia. The purchase was a secondary market transaction between the majority shareholders of TRUST and Merrill Lynch.