French retail chain Galeries Lafayette has made a bid for some or all of Marks & Spencer's 18 French stores. Details of the bid are currently unknown.

Co-chief executive Phillipe Houze said that he couldn't comment on how many stores had been bid for, bid price, or terms. However, it is known that M&S wishes to sell the stores to a single buyer, as the best chance of guaranteeing employment for the 1,700 strong staff.

M&S had declared its intention of selling the French stores earlier this year, as part of their cost cutting strategy following a huge profits slump. However, the company was not allowed to go ahead with the closures, following a decision by the French courts. This was due to M&S's failure to consult employees on the move.

Galaries Lafayette saw operating profit for the first half up by 15 per cent, with sales up by 6.3 per cent for the same period. However, net profits dropped sharply to EUR25.5 million ($3.6m) from EUR252.9 million year on year. But before tax and exceptionals, profits rose nearly 50% to EUR74.5 million from 51.2 million.

Speculation concerning rival bidders from the stores has focused on the French company Pinault-Printemps Redoute, and US giant Wal-Mart. In the meantime, M&S is to open two new boutique style stores in India by the end of 2001.

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