Waitrose MD Mark Price has said the upmarket UK grocer still has ambitions to grow its business in the Middle East despite the recent closure of outlets in Bahrain.

In November, just-food reported Supa Save Bahrain WLL, which ran Waitrose shops under licence in Bahrain, had decided to close the three outlets in the country.

Waitrose opened its first store in the Middle East - and its first outside the UK - in Dubai in 2008 through a venture with Lebanon-based retailer Spinneys.

Speaking to just-food after Waitrose announced its annual results yesterday, Price said the retailer wanted to open more stores in the UAE.

"We will have more shops out there. The deal we have signed will probably see us open about 20 to 25 shops in that territory," Price said. He said the stores in Bahrain closed "because of the economic uncertainty in that particular country".

The Waitrose boss said the retailer had "no intention" of opening stores outside the UAE.

The company is, however, keen to continue its moves to sell Waitrose-branded products through overseas retailers. Waitrose lines are now on sale in 50 markets. Last month, Waitrose announced a deal to sell products at South African retailer Food Lover's Market.

Price said: "We are growing at quite a pace our business with other supermarkets and retailers internationally. We now exporting to 50 countries. In the last year, we started to export to Migros in Switzerland, to a supermarket chain in Chile and also we're exporting to the USA. The primary way in which we are leveraging our brand internationally is through exporting our products."