Books and entertainment giant Borders Group has signalled its plans to exit the U.K. and international retail business.

In a statement outlining its "strategic plan," Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Borders Group Inc explained Thursday that it was exploring alternatives for the majority of its international operations, which includes affiliates in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

The merchant's U.K. and Ireland business, which comprises 72 stores and employs 2,000-plus staff, has been put on the block.

"Until such time as a buyer is found," comments David Roche, CEO of Borders U.K. and Ireland, "it is very much business as usual." Financial management and advisory companies Merrill Lynch will assist in the process.

The group says its U.K. and Ireland operations, which have a "growing share of the music and DVD markets," account for 70% of international revenue.

According to Millward Brown statistics published in the BPI's 2006 Statistical Handbook, just 35 British Borders outlets stocked music product in 2005.

In 2006, the Borders Group's International division's sales rose 12.8% year-on-year to $650 million, and accounted for 16% of total group sales.

In the statement, Borders Inc president and CEO George L. Jones explained that the company would focus on the U.S. Borders superstore business, going forward.

"For us to be successful in reaching the goals we have for the U.S. domestic superstore business, we must significantly reduce investment in the international segment and explore strategic alternatives," Jones said. "These are excellent businesses with dedicated employees and a talented management team. We are grateful for their efforts to help this segment grow."

The new strategy will "revitalize, refocus, and ultimately reinvent Borders to achieve its mission to be a headquarters for knowledge and entertainment," the company added.