Wal-Mart inks deal with Indian telco

US retail giant Wal-Mart has signed a tie-up deal with India's Bharti Airtel to open a chain of retail stores across the country, an Associated Pres report, quoting a Bharti official, said.

Sunil B. Mittal, Bharti Airtel's CEO however declined to divulge the financial details of the deal, but said it would be a huge investment involving hundreds of stores in India, the Associated Press report said.

'It is going to be a large investment. There will be stores across the country. We are going to be a big player in this market and Wal-Mart will be a joint venture partner,' Mittal was quoted as saying.

Mittal said it would take several months before the first of the stores opened their doors, but added, 'We are talking here about several hundred stores eventually.'

He said the retail chain 'will probably carry both brand names.'

India's booming retail market, estimated at about $200 billion, is currently dominated by more than 12 million mom-and-pop shops. Large air-conditioned stores remain a rarity.

Bharti Airtel is already a popular brand in India since it provides mobile phone services to more than 24 million users, the report said.

India does not allow overseas retail companies to open stores in the country. However, foreign companies can buy products from India to support their global supply chains, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. operates a procurement center in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.

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