Future-RIL deal: Amazon gets a beneficial ruling in arbitration case

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Jeff Bezos-led Amazon has won a beneficial ruling for its plea in Singapore against Kishore Biyani-headed Future Group striking a take care of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). Future has been told not to proceed with its sale of shares to RIL till the outcome of the arbitration process, according to the sources.

An emergency arbitration hearing between Amazon and retail conglomerate Future Group took place this month to understand the merit in the case. The hearing took place at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

“The arbitration proceedings will start after the charter of a tribunal inside 90 days,” said an industry source. “The case can take even 6-9 months to total.”

According to the sources, Future can’t go ahead with its take care of Reliance till the completion of the arbitration process as the emergency arbitrator ruling is in “toto.”

This follows a dispute over Future’s sale of its retail and wholesale businesses to RIL. Amazon had sent legitimate notice to Future, alleging the retailer’s Rs 24,713-crore asset sale to RIL breached an agreement with the American e-commerce giant. The matter was once heard by former Singapore attorney general V K Rajah on October 16, according to sources. He was once the sole arbitrator in the Amazon vs Future vs Reliance arbitration case.

“We welcome the award of the Emergency Arbitrator,” said an Amazon spokesperson in response to a query. “We are grateful for the order which grants all of the reliefs that were sought. We remain dedicated to an expeditious conclusion of the arbitration process.”

Amazon was once represented by senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, who had served as Solicitor General of India. The other senior counsels included Gourab Banerji, Amit Sibal and Alvin Yeo.

The law firms which appeared for Amazon included AZB & Partners, P&A Law Offices, and WongPartnership LLP.

Singapore-based Davinder Singh appeared on behalf of Future Coupons, one of Future’s unlisted firms. Harish Salve appeared for Future Retail (being acquired by RIL). Earlier, the Seattle-based company had said Future did not seek its permission before striking a take care of RIL.

Analysts said the Future-RIL deal had created a hindrance for Amazon’s plans to tap offline retail and opened up immense opportunities for RIL. Only 7 per cent of the $1.2-trillion retail market is online, and players including Amazon, Walmart-owned Flipkart, and Reliance’s JioMart are competing with one another and eyeing the remaining 93 per cent, according to analysts.

Final year in August, Amazon bought a 49 per cent stake in Future Coupons for Rs 1,430 crore.

Future Coupons owns 7.3 per cent in Future Retail. The deal had a couple of conditions including a “non-compete” clause and “correct of first refusal” (RoFR) clause, which meant Future could not sell its shares without approval from Amazon. The RoFR gave Amazon the correct to be the first to invest in Future Retail whether Future made up our minds to sell its shares. But there is another clause that mentioned that Future could not sell its assets without Amazon’s approval.

According to sources, there’s a non-compete clause, because of which Future Group could not do the take care of sure particular competing parties without speaking to Amazon.

Highlights:

Amazon gets a beneficial ruling for its emergency arbitration plea against Future’s take care of Reliance.

Future has been told not to proceed with its sale of shares to Reliance.

An emergency arbitration hearing between Amazon and Future Group took place in Singapore.

The arbitration proceedings will start after the charter of a tribunal inside 90 days.

It’ll go on for no less than 9 months.

Future can’t go ahead with its take care of Reliance till the completion of the arbitration process as the emergency arbitrator ruling is in “toto.”

This month an emergency arbitration hearing took place at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) to understand the merit of the case.

Matter was once heard by VK Rajah, the former Attorney-General of Singapore.

Earlier Amazon had sent a legitimate notice on Future.

It alleged Future’s Rs 24,713 crore asset sale to RIL breached an agreement with the e-commerce firm.

Final year Amazon bought a 49 per cent stake in Future Coupons for Rs 1,430 crore.

Future Coupons owns a 7.3 per cent stake in Future Retail.

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