Marks & Spencer took a step forward with international expansion yesterday, when its first store in Egypt and third in China were scheduled to open.

M&S’s 28,000 sq ft Egyptian shop in Cairo’s Dandy Mega Mall will carry fashion, beauty and homeware. It is run by partner Al-Futtaim, which already operates M&S stores in the Gulf, and a second shop is planned in the Cairo Festival City mall next year.

Ahead of the opening there were signs that M&S could be targeted by activists because of its historic ties with Israel. An M&S spokeswoman declined to comment on possible protests but pointed out that Al-Futtaim was an experienced partner in the region.

Egypt has proved a difficult market in the past for UK retailers for similar reasons. Sainsbury’s withdrew in 2001 at a cost of £100m after stores were targeted by activists claiming that it had connections to Israel.

M&S’s third Shanghai store is in Skymall. The retailer’s first store in the city was heavily criticised but chief executive Marc Bolland said: “Throughout the year we’ve continued to build our local expertise in Shanghai, putting in place a strong management team to ensure we have the right offer for our customers in the city.”

Bolland intends to generate sales of between £800m and £1bn overseas, excluding the Republic of Ireland, by 2013/14.