Marks and Spencer has signed a three-week exclusivity deal with New York-based Gristedes Foods to sell its US supermarket chain Kings after more than a year of protracted negotiations. The deal gives Gristedes a window of opportunity as the preferred buyer to approach institutions to finance the deal in the difficult post-September 11 environment, said a spokesman. However, there are no guarantees and a bidding process could open up again if Gristedes cannot raise the necessary cash, he added. "They are confident, but we're in no hurry to sell. It's about getting the right price." Gristedes, which operates 44 supermarkets and pharmacies, is owned by New York-based Red Apple Group. Kings, which operates 27 stores in northern New Jersey and Long Island, was put up for sale in March 2001 along with men's clothing chain Brooks Brothers to enable M&S to concentrate on the domestic market. Sales at the chain topped £329m this year. {{NEWS }}