Amazon Scores Big as Supreme Court Stalls Future’s $3.4 Billion Retail Deal With Reliance


India’s prime courtroom on Friday handed Amazon a serious victory in a dispute the place it sought to dam its associate Future Group from promoting $3.4 billion (roughly Rs. 25,200 crores) in belongings to rival Reliance Industries.

The consequence of the tussle involving two of the world’s richest males, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani, is seen reshaping India’s pandemic-hit procuring sector and deciding if Amazon can blunt Reliance’s dominance of the nation’s practically trillion-dollar retail market.

Amazon and Future have been locked in authorized battles over the Future Group deal, with the US agency accusing the Indian group of violating pre-existing contracts when it bought its belongings to Reliance. Future has denied any wrongdoing.

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court stated that an interim determination by a Singapore arbitrator in October – that put the deal on maintain after discovering benefit in Amazon’s objections – was legitimate and enforceable in India.

Amazon had argued that the order is binding, whereas Future had argued it was not. Both sides had agreed to make use of the Singapore arbitrator in case of disputes when Amazon invested $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,480 crores) in a unit of Future in 2019. The arbitration proceedings are nonetheless ongoing.

Shares in Future Retail had been up 6 p.c forward of the ruling, however tanked 10 p.c and hit a lower-circuit breaker in Mumbai buying and selling after the order. Reliance Industries fell as a lot as 2.3 p.c.

Future Retail stated in a press release it had been “advised that it has remedies available in law, which it will exercise.” It didn’t elaborate on the authorized choices, however stated it is going to take steps to conclude the deal and shield the pursuits of its stakeholders and workforce.

Amazon stated in a press release that it welcomed the courtroom’s ruling, including: “We hope that this will hasten a resolution of this dispute with Future Group.”

Reliance did not respond to a request for comment.

India strictly regulates its retail and e-commerce sector. That has made it difficult for foreign giants like Walmart and Amazon to rapidly expand in one of the world’s fastest growing consumer markets, whose retail landscape is dominated by brick-and-mortar retailers.

Liquidation fears

Future had previously said the deal’s failure would push the company towards liquidation and impact livelihoods of 50,000 employees and 6,000 small- and medium-sized vendors.

But the arbitrator in October said “financial hardship alone will not be a authorized floor for disregarding authorized obligations”.

Future is still trying to convince a Singapore arbitration panel to revoke the October interim decision stalling the deal, a lawyer involved in the case told Reuters on Friday. That decision is expected in coming weeks.

“Everything is evident for Amazon, it’s a huge win for them. It’s for the arbitration panel to resolve now,” said the lawyer, who declined to be identified.

The dispute started after Future, India’s second-largest retailer with over 1,700 stores, entered into a deal last year to sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and certain other businesses to Reliance for $3.38 billion (roughly Rs. 25,060 crores), after COVID-19 hit its operations hard.

Amazon, which had its sights set on ultimately owning part of Future’s retail assets itself, argued the 2019 deal it had with a unit of Future contained clauses prohibiting the Indian group from selling them to anyone on a “restricted individuals” list including Reliance.

Around 1,300 of Future’s retail outlets in 400 cities sell groceries. Its budget supermarkets cater to middle-class shoppers, while its upmarket stores offer products like imported cheese and fresh guacamole, relatively rare in India’s retail landscape. That makes Future a prized asset for both Reliance and Amazon.

Though the Supreme Court ruling is a shot in the arm for Amazon, it faces another challenge from India’s antitrust regulator which recently accused the US firm of concealing facts when it sought approval for the 2019 investment in the Future unit, Reuters has reported. Amazon has said it is confident of addressing those concerns.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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