Spanish retailer Cortefiel has set its sights on expansion in China, with a franchise deal to open 200 Springfield stores over the next five years.

The agreement, struck with Chinese clothing company China Ting Group, will not require any investment from Cortefiel. The retailer said the arrangement will help it to develop in China without investment risk and heighten its international profile.

The deal also allows the retailer to 'focus on consolidating its European operations'. Last month, it opened its first Springfield outlet in Dublin. Located at Roches Stores in Henry Street, the franchised shop is part of Springfield's expansion in Ireland, where the plan is to open eight more shops 'in the near future'.

Cortefiel has 385 own-managed Springfield stores, selling men's casualwear, in continental Europe and 469 franchises worldwide.

Meanwhile, Spanish property company Hidafa is understood to have bought a 5.2 per cent stake in Cortefiel and may increase it to 10 per cent.

However, it is not looking for representation on the board. The news comes on the back of takeover gossip, with Inditex seen as a possible suitor.

Cortefiel has undergone restructuring over the past year and closed a number of stores. Net profit for the six months to August 31 came to EUR580,000 (£409,029) from EUR390,000 (£275,036) in 2002.