The UK’s Marks & Spencer retailing group has denied reports from Kuwait that said it was planning to open branches in the Gulf to be managed from Egypt. However, the company says it is considering expanding its operations in the Middle East as a buyer of goods and as a seller through franchisers.

Joint managing director for textiles Andrew Stone told MEED on 21 September that the reports carried by the Kuwait News Agency two days earlier were wrong. He said that the company had been asked by Gulf states to open franchises, but the region is not regarded as a priority.

He said that Marks & Spencer’s involvement in the Middle East is as a buyer of agricultural goods from Israel, Egypt and Lebanon and as a franchisee in Israel. ‘We buy £100 million ($150 million) a year in raw materials from Israel, and we purchase cotton and potatoes from Egypt, and wine from Lebanon.’ He said that the company hopes to increase its purchases in the region as the peace process develops.

Stone said that Israel is the fastest growing franchiser market and Marks & Spencer’s third largest worldwide. He said he could envisage Israeli franchisers expanding into Egypt and Jordan once relations between Israel and these states warm up. Marks & Spencer is the UK’s most profitable retailer, with net earnings for the year to March 1994 of £851.5 million ($1,340 million).