We’re very open to foreign money, says Russia’s sovereign wealth fund chief

Despite Russia's main MICEX stock exchange tumbling over 16 percent so far this year and significant oil price volatility, the country can offer investors attractive and stable returns in certain sectors, according to the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund.

Pointing to the consumer sector as one example of a compelling investment area for foreigners, Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) also highlighted a recent airport construction deal which brought together investors from several Middle Eastern countries and China.

"Infrastructure is a very stable investment … Russian infrastructure assets offer a very predictable, attractive return," claimed Dmitriev, speaking to CNBC from the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday.

Dmitriev, who spent part of his Thursday in a strategy session with President Vladimir Putin and domestic investors representing around $11 trillion worth of assets, also gave a look ahead to the president's annual plenary speech later in the day.

"He will show that Russia is very much open to foreign investment. We need foreign investment to continue growing very well and we are very open to bringing top investors to make good returns in Russia," said the RDIF chief, adding that agriculture and logistics – particularly focused on providing links between Asia and Europe – are other potentially attractive non-oil sectors for external investors.

Sergei Savostyanov | Getty

However, the instability that comes from the Russian economy's high dependence on oil remains a concern, particularly as volatility in the commodity's price continues to roil markets. Nonetheless, Dmitriev claims that attempts to ween the economy off its dependence are ongoing and bearing fruit, even if slowly.

"We believe step-by-step diversification is happening … We see major growth in non-oil sectors of Russia but of course more growth there is needed," he admitted, also acknowledging that while companies have made solid progress towards improving their competitiveness in recent years, still much needs to be done in terms of broader supply-side reforms.

"Hopefully some of the steps will be taken this year and there is a realization that lots of reform need to be taken this year," the executive offered.

Expressing his enthusiasm for the recently extended oil output cut agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers, he emphasized that it was an historical deal given it is the first time that Russia and Saudi Arabia have worked so effectively together on the international stage, and that its success is critically important for his country.

"What it means for Russian economy is stable growth ... And lots of predictability for investment in Russia because a good solid oil price means that the Russian economy and lots of sectors of the Russian economy are doing well," he concluded.

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