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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

FRL-Reliance deal: Delhi HC rejects Future plea to restrict Amazon from writing to regulators

The court, however, did not void FRL board’s nod for the Rs 24,173-cr deal with Reliance.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi | Updated: December 22, 2020 12:19:05 am
An employee packs goods into a plastic bag at a checkout counter of a Big Bazaar hypermarket, operated by Future Retail Ltd, in Mumbai, India, on Sunday, April 16, 2017. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

The Delhi High Court on Monday declined to grant Future Retail Ltd’s (FRL) plea for an interim injunction restraining Amazon from writing to Sebi, CCI and other authorities about the arbitral order against its asset sale.

The Kishore Biyani-led FRL had, in November, accused Amazon of adopting a media strategy of “having every development reported and converted into a line of communication with stock exchanges” regarding the Amazon-Future Coupons’ arbitration proceedings in Singapore.

Asking statutory authorities/ regulators to take a decision on Amazon’s objections in accordance with the law, the court, however, did not void FRL board’s approval for the Rs 24,173-crore deal with Reliance Industries.

Future-RIL deal

In August, Biyani’s Future Group entered into an agreement with Reliance Retail — a subsidiary of the umbrella Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) group — to sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing to the latter.

Amazon’s objection

Last year, FRL had signed another deal with Amazon, as part of which Amazon had acquired 49 per cent stake in Future Coupons — the promoter firm of FRL — in a deal worth nearly Rs 2,000 crore. Amazon said Future’s deal with RIL was a violation of a non-compete clause and a right-of-first-refusal pact it had signed with the Future Group. The deal also required Future Group to inform Amazon before entering into into any sale pact with third parties.

On its part, Future Group has said that it had not sold any stake in the company, and was merely selling its assets and had therefore not violated any terms of the contract. Along these lines, Amazon also sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), BSE and National Stock Exchange asking them not to approve the Future-RIL deal as there was an interim stay order on it.

Asking the agencies to take note of the stay order, Amazon is learnt to have said that if the deal went ahead, it would show companies across the world that orders by reputed tribunals such as the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) were not respected in India.

FRL moved Delhi High Court

FRL had moved the Delhi High Court seeking appropriate relief against Amazon.com’s NV Investment Holdings to stop the latter from interfering in its deal with RIL. FRL claimed Amazon had been “misusing” the interim order passed by the SIAC.

The high court ruling

While the order says the statutory authorities and regulators can take a view on the deal in accordance with the law, it also held the award given by SIAC as valid.

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