Is Lowe’s eyeing India?

A report in India’s Economic Times newspaper has said Lowe’s is getting much closer to entering India, in a deal similar to one recently forged by Wal-Mart and an India-based retail conglomerate.

The Economic Times quoted an unnamed source who said Lowe’s and India-based Reliance Retail are working on a joint venture to include a cash-and-carry business and a front-end retail venture in that country.

Commenting on the article, Lowe’s spokeswoman Maureen Rich said, “It’s Lowe’s policy not to speculate on market rumors or comment on any rumor of any business transaction.”

Similar to the rumored Lowe’s deal, reports surfaced this spring that Wal-Mart plans to launch wholesale stores in India by mid-2008, with further plans to expand into 75 Indian cities in the next five to seven years. Wal-Mart is expected to enter into a joint-venture agreement with Bharti Group, a conglomerate with interests in mobile phone services and retail stores.

Lowe’s has made moves recently to enter Mexico and Canada, but entering India before entering China would buck the trend started by U.K.-based B&Q and Home Depot. As earlier reported in HCN, India's retail industry is worth roughly $300 billion and could reach well over $400 billion by 2010.

The Economic Times article characterized talks between Reliance Retail and Lowe’s as being at a “very advanced stage,” while adding that no proposal has gone to the boards of either company.