Retailer and distributor F J Benjamin Singapore has entered into a franchise arrangement with third-party retailer Apparel LLC for further expansion of the Raoul brand in the Middle East.

F J Benjamin, a wholly owned subsidiary of F J Benjamin Holdings, said the deal was Raoul's first franchise arrangement with a third-party retailer.

Apparel will launch and operate nine Raoul men's stores in Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar by 2009. Apparel has also been given the right of first refusal to open Raoul ladies' stores in these territories.

The Agreement will be for an initial term of five years with rights to renew.

F J Benjamin said it was confident that the brand's growth in the Middle East would mirror the exceptional expansion already witnessed in South East Asia.

F J Benjamin Singapore chief executive Douglas Benjamin commented: "Apparel LLC is a fine company with an extensive network of stores and a proven track record."

The company has recently opened two Raoul men's stores at the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai and at Seef Mall, Bahrain.

There are currently more than 20 Raoul men's and ladies' stores in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Dubai and Bahrain.

Ten stores are currently targeted to open in 2006 in existing markets and in new markets such as Thailand,Vietnam, Kuwait, Qatar and others.

F J Benjamin Holdings is an industry leader in building retail and distribution networks for international fashion and lifestyle. Its portfolio of brands includes Banana Republic, Gap, Guess? and La Senza.