Wal-Mart to sell iPhone later this month: reports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc will sell Apple Inc’s popular iPhone later this month, according to store employees and various media reports.

A shopkeeper displays a new unlocked Apple Iphone 3G at a mobile phone shop in northern Tehran November 1, 2008. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Employees at various Wal-Mart stores told Reuters on Monday the retailer will sell the iPhone in a week or two, although a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the retailer has “made no official announcement” on offering the iPhone at this time.

Apple shares rose 5 percent in morning trade. A report in the San Jose Mercury News said the touch-screen phone would hit the shelves of the U.S. retail giant by year-end.

Numerous websites have speculated in recent weeks that Apple will offer a 4-gigabyte model of the iPhone for $99, which holds about 1,000 songs, at Wal-Mart stores.

CNBC said on Monday that while Apple would be selling the phone at the discount retailer, it would not cost as little as $99.

An Apple spokesman said the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves said a deal with Wal-Mart would be good news as it would help Apple to increase volume sales of the phone, which is also available at Best Buy Co Inc.

“(Apple gets) exposure to a demographic they don’t have a lot of exposure to,” said Hargreaves, adding that he did not believe Apple would cut a deal with Wal-Mart that would hurt its margins.

Wal-Mart has been gaining market share and clout amid the U.S. recession as cash-strapped shoppers seek out its low prices, especially for hot electronics.

AT&T Inc, the exclusive U.S. wireless service provider for iPhone, currently sells the cheapest version for $199 for a model with 8 gigabytes of storage, and $299 for the 16-gigabyte version. AT&T declined to comment.

On top of the phone’s price tag, U.S. iPhone buyers also need to sign up for data services costing at least $30 a month for unlimited Web access at AT&T. Text messaging costs another $5 a month for 200 messages, or $20 for unlimited texting.

Apple shares rose 5.67 percent to $99.33 in morning trade on Nasdaq. Wal-Mart shares were down 0.4 percent at $57.98.

Reporting by Sinead Carew and Nicole Maestri in New York and Eric Yep in Bangalore; Editing by John Wallace and Derek Caney