Marks & Spencer this afternoon confirmed plans to open at least 50 stores in India over the next five years through a joint venture with Reliance Retail

The joint venture will have an initial value of£29 million. M&S will take a 51 per cent stake, with Reliance – part of India’s giant Reliance Industries conglomerate – holding the rest. Both parties have agreed to provide further funding in the future.

The stores will sell men’s, women’s and children’s clothing plus homewares. The existing 14 M&S stores operated with franchisee Planet Retail in India will continue unaffected.

“India is a very exciting opportunity for Marks & Spencer and there is potential for M&S to become a major retail brand,” said M&S chief executive Sir Stuart Rose. “We have been impressed with [Reliance’s] strength in technology, logistics and property.”

Mark Ashman with be chief executive of the joint venture, with Jatin Luthra as chief financial officer. The move is part of M&S’s plan to grow its international business so that it contributes 15 to 20 per cent of group revenues within five years.