Amid bad news at home (same-store sales were up only 1.2 percent in the second quarter of 2007, compared to 1.5 percent during the same period last year), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. got a bit of a pick-me-up from its international division.

On Aug. 6, the company finalized its long-talked-about joint venture agreement with Bharti Enterprises to provide wholesale cash-and-carry and supply chain management operations for Indian retail vendors. The resulting enterprise, Bharti Wal-Mart Private Ltd., plans to open its first distribution facility in India by the end of 2008, with plans under way for the development of another 10 to 15 distribution centers within the next seven years.

One of the most attractive features of the deal is that India allows 100 percent foreign direct investment in wholesalers. It also gives the firm a leg up if the country relaxes its restrictions on foreign retail chains. Currently such operations are barred. As a result, the nation's top five domestic retailers share only 2 percent of its retail market between them. The majority is unorganized.