Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced it is in talks with its franchise partner in the Middle East over the sale of its store network in Hong Kong and Macau.
The FTSE 100 retailer, which is trying to turn around its core UK business, said it was looking to expand the franchising arrangement it has with Dubai-based Al-Futtaim to include 27 stores in the Chinese territories.
The move, M&S said, was a response to the conclusions of a strategic review of its overseas business last year which proposed it operate with fewer wholly-owned markets.
Al-Futtaim currently runs 43 M&S stores across seven countries in the Middle East, as well as in Singapore and Malaysia.
M&S said the stores it was looking to sell were profitable and staff would be kept fully informed of developments over the coming months during a period of due diligence.
The company’s fortunes have suffered in recent years with a new order under pressure to raise its game in the UK.
The Times reported on Wednesday how the market value of M&S – standing just above £5bn compared to £16bn 20 years ago – was close to being overhauled by online fashion rival Asos.
M&S investors are hoping a turnaround plan under chief executive Steve Rowe, who took over from Marc Bolland last year, will be bolstered by the arrival this week of a new chairman in Archie Norman.
M&S has moved to expand its popular food offering and close unprofitable UK stores while continuing to grapple with falling clothing sales.
It is bringing in experienced chief executive Jill McDonald, poached from Halfords, to lead its latest recovery effort in clothing, home and beauty.