Carrefour says to open first Indian outlet by November

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French supermarket giant Carrefour said Friday it would open its first wholesale store in India by November, as it joins other foreign firms trying to break into the nation's vast retail sector.

The world's second-largest retailer after US-based Wal-Mart hopes the outlet in New Delhi will eventually lead to a string of hypermarkets for consumers in the fast-growing emerging market.

"We plan to open a cash-and-carry store (in New Delhi) by November," Carrefour India spokesman Franck Kenner told AFP at a news conference in Teekli village near the capital.

"We hope it (the opening) will be the beginning of something larger," Kenner said.

Foreign players such as Carrefour, Wal-Mart and Britain's Tesco have been pushing for a government green light that would fully open up India's 500-billion-dollar retail sector to outside operators.

India's tight foreign investment rules allow no overseas chains in the retail sector -- except for single-brand outlets such as Nokia or Reebok -- to protect local retailers, mainly family-run corner stores.

Foreign groups can currently only run as wholesalers in India.

Kenner said Carrefour, which recently swung to a first half net profit as growth in emerging markets helped offset weakness in Europe, is going it alone in the wholesale business unlike Wal-Mart.

"We are in talks with partners," he said, but declined to reveal any names.

Wal-Mart has teamed up with India's Bharti telecoms group and Tesco has an alliance with the tea-to-steel giant Tata Group.

India's Future Group, the largest retail chain with outlets such as Big Bazaar, has been most frequently named as a potential partner for Carrefour.

© 2010 AFP

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