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Written by: Staff

SINGAPORE, Mar 21 (Reuters) Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, controlled by telecoms tycoon Sunil Mittal, is in talks with British supermarket group Tesco Plc. that could see them launch a grocery chain in India's $250 billion retail market, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

A senior Bharti executive told the FT that the company was in talks with several groups, with Tesco as a frontrunner. The British firm already has a relationship with Bharti, which it uses as a supplier for fresh products in its supermarkets.

The executive said Bharti and Tesco had met to discuss a partnership, adding that any joint venture would start with an investment of about $100 million but could rise to over $1 billion.

Tesco declined to comment, the FT said.

India's Business Standard newspaper reported last week that Bharti had initiated talks with Tesco for joint-venture retail plans in India with an initial investment of 60 billion rupees ($1.4 billion).

Tesco, which has a support centre and non-food sourcing operation in the southern city of Bangalore, has been expanding abroad for more than a decade and last month announced a surprise move into the U.S. convenience store market, with plans for a 250-strong chain of stores in California by 2009.

Bharti Enterprises has business interests ranging from Bharti Televentures Ltd., India's biggest telecoms firm, to fresh food.

Reuters CS DB0911

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