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Future Retail moves Delhi HC, challenges SIAC ruling

MUMBAI :

The Amazon-Future battle over the Reliance Retail deal has yet again reached the Delhi high court, with the Future Group seeking a stay on an interim order passed by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) on 21 October.

According to a regulatory filing on Wednesday, Future Group promoters and Future Coupons Pvt. Ltd have also urged the high court to set aside the SIAC order.

Last week, SIAC dismissed Future Group’s appeal to vacate the interim stay on the Reliance transaction awarded in October 2020.

In its appeal, the company contested the observation of the arbitration court, saying that Future Retail was in no way a party to the agreement between Amazon and Future Coupons, as the group promoters had not signed any agreement with Amazon.

Amazon invested ₹1,400 crore in Future Coupons, which owns nearly 10% stake in Future Retail.

In its appeal on Tuesday, Future Retail has also urged the court to allow the company to conduct a meeting of shareholders and creditors, according to an order of the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

On 28 September, the NCLT had allowed the Kishore Biyani-led group companies to hold meetings of shareholders and creditors for approval to sell all its assets to Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd.

Last week, Amazon filed an interim application in the Supreme Court to restrain Future Retail from holding the meeting of shareholders and creditors on the Reliance Retail deal.

On 29 August 2020, the debt-laden Future Group announced the sale of its retail and wholesale assets to Reliance Industries Ltd’s subsidiaries for ₹24,713 crore.

Soon after, Amazon approached SIAC on the grounds that its investment agreement with Future Coupons, another Biyani firm, bars Future Retail from selling its assets to Reliance.

A SIAC emergency order stayed the sale process, triggering a court battle between Amazon and Future over the legality to enforce the SIAC order.

Subsequently, the Singapore tribunal has heard both parties, and a final order is expected soon.

In August, the apex court had upheld the Singapore emergency arbitrator’s order suspending the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries’s acquisition of Future Group’s retail assets.

A Supreme Court bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and B.R. Gavai ruled that the 25 October 2020 order by SIAC is enforceable under Section 17(2) of India’s Arbitration Act.

Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL), the retail arm of Reliance Industries, had recently extended the long-stop date for completion of its ₹24,713 crore deal with Future Group by another six months to 31 March next year in view of the long-drawn-out legal battle with Amazon. Earlier, RRVL had extended the timeline for the long stop date from 31 March to 30 September.

Online retail giant Amazon is competing against rivals including Walmart-led Flipkart and Reliance Industries for gaining a beachhead in India’s burgeoning retail e-commerce space.

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