The Competition Commission of India has approved Reliance Retail’s ₹24,713 crore acquisition of the retail, wholesale, logistics, and warehousing businesses of the Future Group — a deal shrouded in controversy so far.
The Commission has ignored Amazon’s request that it consider a ruling by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre which had temporarily halted the planned sale. Amazon had obtained the emergency arbitration order arguing that a 2019 deal that it signed with Future Coupons, the promoter entity of the Future Retail Ltd., gave it a right to block the transaction. The Future Group had proceeded anyway, arguing that the arbitration order had no legal force in India, and that provisions of Indian law concerning arbitration did not provide for emergency orders from arbitration centres.
Commission approves acquisition of retail, wholesale, logistics & warehousing businesses of Future Group by Reliance Retail Ventures Limited and Reliance Retail and Fashion Lifestyle Limited pic.twitter.com/4WKdIrLHRP
— CCI (@CCI_India) November 20, 2020
Future Retail Ltd. and Amazon are now fighting it out in the Delhi High Court. Future Retail, represented by senior lawyer Harish Salve, has argued that Amazon mischaracterised the suit as an anti-arbitration suit, when Future was simply seeking non-interference, while continuing to question whether the arbitration court’s order has legal force in India. Salve has argued that under Amazon’s shareholding agreement with Future Coupons Ltd., it merely has investor protection rights, and that only Future Coupons would require prior consent and not Future Retail Ltd.
Future Group’s lawyers have said that “showing off” the SIAC’s orders to different regulators “as a binding order is unlawful interference” with Future Retail Ltd.’s business. The Delhi High Court today reserved its order in the suit.
Earlier this month, Amazon accused the Future Group of insider trading in a letter to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), stating that Reliance Retail was improperly informed of an emergency arbitrator’s order staying a deal between the retail conglomerate and Reliance.