US suitors circle M&S for cut-price Kings

The former suitors of Marks & Spencer's US food chain Kings Super Markets have stepped back into the ring and are ready to talk money.

Gristedes chief executive John Catsimatidis and D'Agostino boss Nick D'Agostino Jr both said they were ready to talk to M&S regarding a possible sale of 27-store Kings.

'We would be interested in Kings if an intelligent transaction could be worked out. If they wanted to start some sort of dialogue we would be more than happy to meet them,' said D'Agostino Jr.

Catsimatidis said: 'We'd be interested, depending on what they could deliver. I will wait for the phone call.'

Kings was at the centre of an ongoing sale saga involving D'Agostino and Gristedes between March 2001 and August last year, when M&S chief executive Roger Holmes pulled the plug on the sale.

Catsimatidis said Holmes had been 'stubborn' over the disposal of Kings. 'He didn't realise he was better off selling the business than keeping it,' he said. He added it has since become easier to raise cash for acquisitions in the US.

Burt Flickinger, managing director of New York retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group, estimated Kings' value at between US$50 million and US$60 million, compared with its US$160 million price tag in 2001. He said poor management decisions had devalued the chain.

Last year, Kings' operating profit fell by 70 per cent to£2.4 million.

- M&S latest: page 3.