UK retailer Marks & Spencer has abandoned the sale of its US supermarket business Kings to private food distributor D’Agostino.

The deal involved 29 grocery outlets employing a workforce of 2,700, largely in New Jersey. The sale had been agreed for US$160m, but D’Agostino has been unable to secure financial backing.

M&S has already closed or sold off most of its non-UK operations and is now expected to pick up talks with other interested parties such as Di Giorio and Gristede’s Foods. The group has been looking for more than a year for a buyer for King’s, which it acquired for $110.3m in 1988.

"Marks & Spencer has terminated the sale contract with D'Agostino Supermarkets as the deadline for completion expired on 30 November," the British group said in a statement. "Marks & Spencer is now in the process of considering other options for the sale of Kings."

The period of exclusive talks between Marks & Spencer and D'Agostino expired at the end of November, and although the two parties can continue talks, Marks & Spencer is able to talk to other parties.

M&S is still very much on the lookout for a buyer for the chain, although last month chairman Luc Vandevelde said that the retailer could retain the profitable chain if a buyer couldn't be found.