Amazon gets stay on RIL-Future deal

Reliance says its $3.4 billion deal with Future Group ‘fully enforceable under Indian law’ despite Amazon winning an arbitration order

Reliance-Future Deal Said to Be Put on Hold as Amazon Wins Arbitration Order Against Agreement

BusinessLine had reported that while Amazon had made Future Retail, Future Coupons, and the Reliance group respondents, Future Retail had built its argument on the basis that the latest ₹25,000-crore deal was struck between Future Retail and the Reliance Group.

Passing an interim award in favour of Amazon, V K Rajah - the sole arbitrator in the Amazon vs Future vs Reliance arbitration matter - has asked the Future group to put the deal on hold and said that the deal can not go through until it finally decides the matter. "We remain committed to an expeditious conclusion of the arbitration process", a spokesperson of Amazon said on Sunday.

Amazon had alleged the deal between the Indian firms breached existing agreements and had approached emergency arbitration to seek a stay on the deal until the arbitration process is complete, sources told CNBC-TV18. We are grateful for the order, which grants all the reliefs that were sought.

FRL, which operates retail chains such as Big Bazar and Easy Day, said it is not a party to the agreement under which Amazon has invoked arbitration proceedings and the deal can not be held back through the arbitration process.

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Future Retail has further said that in any enforcement proceedings, FRL will take appropriate steps to ensure that the proposed transaction proceeds unhindered without any delay.

According to Amazon, the deal had also given it a "call" option, which enabled it to exercise the option of acquiring all or part of Future Retail's shareholding in the company, within three to 10 years of the agreement. "RRVL intends to enforce its rights and complete the transaction in terms of the scheme and agreement with Future group without any delay", RRVL said.

Representatives for Future Group, which has a partnership with Amazon in India, declined to immediately comment when reached outside of business hours in India.

Amazon.com secured relief in its dispute with Future Group after a court put a temporary hold on the debt-strapped Indian conglomerate's US$3.4 billion (S$4.6 billion) deal to sell assets to billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries. Harish Salve is representing Future Group in the matter.

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Amazon indirectly owns a 5% stake in Future Retail - which houses all food and grocery stores such as Big Bazaar and Easyday - through a 49% shareholding in promoter holding firm Future Coupons that it bought for Rs 1,500 crore a year ago. The deal would have been a bailout for Future, which faces another potential cash crunch as competition in the Indian retail space intensifies and the economy slows amid the coronavirus pandemic. It said the deal also required Future Group to inform Amazon before entering into any sale agreement with third parties.

The tussle between Future and Amazon comes at a time when Reliance has been bolstering its position in the country's retail segment.

India's richest businessman Mukesh Ambani has suddenly become a topic of intense conversations on the internet. Comparatively, Reliance Retail operates in almost 12K stores across 6,600 towns and cities, covering an area of 28.7 Mn square feet.

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