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FRL had contended before the court that the arbitral award is not binding and is just persuasive in nature. MINT
FRL had contended before the court that the arbitral award is not binding and is just persuasive in nature. MINT

HC issues notice on Amazon’s petition

  • Amazon appealed a single-judge order that left it to regulators to decide on Future group’s asset sale to Reliance Industries

The Delhi high court on Wednesday issued notices to Future Retail Ltd (FRL) and others on Amazon.com Inc.’s appeal against a single-judge order that left it to regulators to decide on Future group’s asset sale to Reliance Industries Ltd but allowed the US retailer to oppose the deal.

The court’s 21 December ruling prima facie upheld Future Retail’s board resolution approving the 24,713 crore sale to Reliance Industries, saying it has not violated any statutory legal provisions and the parties were free to seek approval for the deal from local regulators. At the same time, the order allowed Amazon to challenge the sale before appropriate legal forums, indicating that the interim award passed by an emergency arbitrator in Singapore is valid.

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“Having held that the EA (emergency arbitrator) order was not ‘coram non judice’, (without jurisdiction) the learned single judge could not have, in the same impugned order, rendered any observations inconsistent with the express premises of the EA order," Amazon said in its appeal.

“Respondent No 1 ( FRL) has been relying on these prima facie observations to misconstrue the true import of the impugned order in an effort to mislead regulators to grant approval to the potential transaction, which has constrained the appellant to file the present appeal to quash and set aside the prime facie observations," Amazon added.

The Indian retailer had approached the high court with a plea to restrain Amazon from approaching regulatory bodies such as the Competition Commission of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India, or Sebi, to oppose the transaction with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries.

FRL had contended before the court that the arbitral award is not binding and is just persuasive in nature. The legal dispute relates to Future group’s sale of its retail, wholesale and warehousing assets to Reliance Industries for 24,713 crore.

Amazon, which owns a 5% indirect stake in Future Retail, had contested the sale in the Singapore court, claiming that its 2019 investment agreement bars Future group from selling its assets to Reliance Industries.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre on 25 October restrained Future group from selling its assets to Reliance Industries. Amazon.com wants to retain the company’s pre-eminence in India’s retail market, estimated to reach $1.3 trillion by 2025, amid a surge in online shopping and stave off a challenge from Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, which runs the country’s largest offline retail chain. Acquiring Future’s assets would give Reliance an edge over Amazon, a scenario it is determined to avoid.

The court has granted time to the respondents to file their response. The next date of hearing is on 12 February.

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