Amazon has approached the Supreme Court seeking to stop Future Group’s $3.4 billion retail assets sale to Reliance Industries, days after the Delhi High Court revoked a previous single judge decision that effectively blocked the deal. The high court order was, however, an interim one and the next hearing is on February 26.
The high court allowed procedures before the Competition Commission of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India to go ahead, a move opposed by Amazon, which said once the matter goes through the regulators then there could be no return.
Amazon in its petition to the Supreme Court said the high court should have waited for a detailed order of the single-judge bench before removing the hold on the deal.
Amazon alleges Future violated contracts by agreeing to sell its retail assets to Reliance Industries last year. Future denies any wrongdoing.
Amazon claims a decision in October last year by an arbitrator in Singapore, who had put the Future-Reliance deal on hold, is enforceable under Indian laws. The high court, however, had noted that Future Retail was not a party to the arbitration agreement with Amazon and so the “group of companies” doctrine was not applicable.
A “group of companies” doctrine refers to a situation when a deal signed by one firm in a group is also understood to include other firms in the group that have not signed the contract.
In its petition, Amazon told the Supreme Court that the previous court order to put the deal on hold was for protecting the interests of all parties till a decision is made on the dispute. The retail giant owned by Jeff Bezos said once Future and Reliance move ahead with a transaction, it would be difficult to undo it.
The dispute centres around Future’s decision in August to sell its retail, wholesale and some other businesses to Reliance for $3.38 billion, including debt. Amazon argues that a separate 2019 deal it had with a Future unit had clauses saying the Indian group couldn’t sell its retail assets to a list of companies, including Reliance.
Future, India’s second-largest retailer with over 1,700 stores, has said it will be pushed towards liquidation if the deal falls through.