Future-Reliance deal: Indian court says Amazon can interfere

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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An Indian court has dismissed a plea from Future Group seeking to prevent US partner Amazon from intervening in its $3.4 billion asset sale to Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Ltd.

In August, Future sold its retail assets to Reliance Industries in a deal which Amazon said violated agreements Future made with the US ecommerce leader in 2019. Amazon secured an injunction in October to stop the sale to a Singapore arbitrator that the parties had agreed to use in the event of a dispute.

Later, Future said the order was not binding, forcing Amazon to file a complaint with the market regulator of India.

Future Group is widely credited with transforming the retail industry of India in recent decades. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, struck the company so hard that founder Kishore Biyani looked for a buyer.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) last month approved Future’s sale of its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing businesses to billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance.

In the latest development, the court observed that the suit filed by Future Group unit Future Retail was maintainable and its resolution approving the transaction with Reliance was also valid. However, it noted that Amazon cannot be barred from writing to regulators on account of potentially irreparable damage, Justice Mukta Gupta said in the verdict.

Data shows that India’s retail sector is likely to grow by 46 percent over the next four years to an annual $1.3 trillion. The main battle is over groceries, which by 2024 will likely be worth about $740 billion a year, the data showed.

Reliance and Future dominate India’s market, with Avenue Supermarts Ltd DMart, the next rival, far behind in terms of stores and reach.