Marks & Spencer has signed a joint venture with Marinopoulos Group worth €50 million (£37.9 million) to open 50 stores in Greece and the Balkan states.

M&S has acquired 50 per cent of Marks & Spencer Marinopoulos BV, which has hitherto operated 38 M&S stores as a franchise partner in Greece and a number of Balkan states, including Romania and Bulgaria and Switzerland.

The deal is in line with M&S’s plans to invest in its existing franchise partners, where it will facilitate a faster pace of growth and greater operating efficiency.

M&S plans to expand its international business to between 15 and 20 per cent of group sales within the next five years.

The Marinopoulos Group, a private Greek company, has been a partner of M&S for 30 years and has exclusive rights to operate M&S stores in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Switzerland under a franchise agreement.

M&S director of international business Carl Leaver said: “We have an exciting opportunity to open many more Marks & Spencer stores in Greece and the Balkans and our joint venture with Marinopoulos will mean we can really put M&S on the map in this part of the world.”