M&S sells Kings for $160m

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer beat a final retreat from overseas markets yesterday after the high street retailer sold its US supermarkets chain Kings for $160m (£102m).

Marks & Spencer beat a final retreat from overseas markets yesterday after the high street retailer sold its US supermarkets chain Kings for $160m (£102m).

The disposal, which marks the end of a restructuring programme that has left M&S focused on the UK market, will see the privately owned D'Agostino Supermarkets acquire Kings' 29 stores.

The deal with the New York-based grocer draws a line under a beleaguered sales process that took almost two years to complete. Just last week, the UK retail giant was forced to widen its search for a buyer for Kings after it abandoned exclusive negotiations with Gristede's, which failed to secure financing for the deal.

D'Agostino, which was founded by two Italian emigrants in the 1920s, is paying $160m cash for Kings, which had net assets of £101.2m at the end of March.

M&S, which put Kings up for sale in September 1999, said it had received a "fair" price, although it fell short of initial expectations. Analysts said the sum received reflected the difficulties the group faced in finding a buyer given the recent financial turmoil in the US, which has made it hard for potential purchasers to raise funding. Negotiations were derailed last September by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

M&S bought Kings, which employs 2,700 staff, from the Bilder family for $110m in 1988. "Kings is a high quality supermarket chain with a committed workforce and a loyal customer base in its key markets. However, it is not a good fit with the M&S core business or strategic priorities," David Norgrove, the group's clothing and international director, said.

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