Wal-Mart and Bharti Enterprises are close to finalising a deal that will see the establishment of a cash-and-carry joint venture and back-end linkages in a mass retail operation, Bharti chairman Sunil Mittal has revealed.

"We are very close. We can't fix a time-frame, but we hope it will happen in the next few weeks," Mittal commented.

Wal-Mart and Bharti have been in talks regarding the establishment of a partnership that would see Wal-Mart gain access to the Indian retail sector. Foreign companies are currently prohibited from direct ownership of multi-brand retail channels, although they are permitted to establish cash-and-carry operations.

In contrast to Bharti's outspoken approach, Wal-Mart has remained more guarded on its plans for India. "We are not yet at a stage where we want to make our plans for the Indian market public," a spokesperson for the retailer told just-food on Friday (23 February).