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Wal-Mart, Target, Best-Buy to launch mobile app for payments

NEW YORK -- A bevy of big-name retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best-Buy Co. and Target Corp., are teaming up to create a company that will give U.S. customers another way to make purchases: with their cellphones.

The businesses said Wednesday that the new company, Merchant Customer Exchange, is developing a mobile application that will be available for nearly any smartphone. The app is expected to integrate a variety of coupons, rebates and loyalty programs. With the announcement, retailers are entering an already crowded arena where different industry groups are jockeying for position on the smartphone screen, which everyone expects will be the new way to pay.

Among the competitors is Internet giant Google Inc., which already has a smartphone payment app in use on some Sprint phones. Three of the biggest cellphone companies — Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA — have a competing platform. Payment networks Visa and MasterCard each have their own designs and apps. Square, a startup, recently struck a deal to become the cellphone payments processor for Starbucks. PayPal, eBay's payment service, is on cellphones, too.

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