Wal-Mart might venture into a strategic alliance with Amazon.com, the online retailer, according to newspaper reports in the UK.

The Sunday Times paper claims that Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's chief executive, and Jeff Bezos, Amazon's billionaire founder, are in secret talks to join forces???. The paper suggests that a deal could be on the cards within six weeks. Both companies declined to comment on the issue.

Amazon would become Wal-Mart's e-commerce supplier, under the terms of the deal, while Wal-Mart would gain access to the e-tailer's expertise in managing the retail chain, from online ordering to home delivery.

The move would allow Amazon to gain a presence in Wal-Mart's 4,500 stores across the world, a cash injection and a percentage of the sales it makes through the retail giant. Amazon already operates an online deal with toy retailer, Toys R Us, where it maintains the site and handles delivery while Toys R Us is responsible for merchandising.

Wal-Mart is keen to expand its online activities but previous attempts to make its presence felt on the Internet have failed. Last week Walmart.com laid off 24 employees, 10% of its workforce. The entire site was taken down for most of October last year but is consistently ranked among the most-visited e-commerce sites in the US.

The deal will increase speculation that Wal-Mart might take an equity stake in Amazon.