Waitrose is to expand abroad for the first time in April, after the supermarket chain signed a licensing agreement with Spinneys to open more than 20 stores in the United Arab Emirates by 2010.

Dubai grocer Spinneys, which has sold a range of Waitrose products in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and neighbouring Oman since 2004, will open the first Waitrose store in Dubai in April, measuring 25,000 sq ft.

Waitrose exports products to 20 countries, but this is the first time it has signed a licensing agreement to open its first store overseas.

Two further purpose-built Waitrose stores will open in July and October, both in Dubai.

Over the next two years, Spinneys will convert an additional 20 of its eponymous stores to the Waitrose brand.

Waitrose commercial director Richard Hodgson said: “This agreement is set to accelerate export trade for Waitrose and marks a significant milestone in our international ambitions.

“Spinneys – a retail operator that shares many of Waitrose’s trading principles and with whom we have enjoyed a successful three-year trading relationship – was the obvious choice for our first licensing deal.”