Battling retailer Marks & Spencer has announced plans to sell its French stores to Groupe Galeries Lafayette - providing it gets the go-ahead from staff.

The company said the proposal, which would see M&S pulling out of France by the end of the year, is subject to consultation with staff of M&S France.

Company Profile:

Marks and Spencer Plc

All staff will be offered opportunities for jobs with the new owner. Galeries Lafayette was one of the stores named when potential buyers started lining up in April.

M&S has 18 stores in France, including its flagship store in Paris, employing around 1,800 staff.

But the news is not so good in Belgium where M&S says it has regrettably not received an acceptable offer to buy its stores. This means that all staff in Belgium will be made redundant and the stores will be sold as properties.

David Norgrove, M&S' international director said: "We are pleased that we have agreed a proposal with Galeries Lafayette to acquire the stores in France.

"This would offer an opportunity of a new job for all our staff, which in France, as elsewhere, has been a priority objective. In Belgium, regrettably, we received no offer which included all employees."

M&S must now consult with its staff in France over the sale of its French stores to Galeries Lafayette. The store group has faced mounting criticism of its plans to pull out of France in the past.

Early on, the plan angered trade unions and politicians but M&S stuck to its ground, saying it had complied with the required legislation and not broken any laws.

M&S announced earlier this year that it was planning a major shake-up, including closing its European stores to concentrate on its UK stores.

By Deborah Bowyer

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