Big victory for Amazon in its e-tailing tussle with Reliance Retail

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CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos visits the Taj Mahal in Agra during his India trip. (ANI Photo)

Future Retail is expected to file a review petition against the order pronounced by the Supreme Court and an appeal under the Arbitration Act

Our Bureau
New Delhi/Singapore   

In a big victory for e-commerce giant Amazon, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld Singapore’s Emergency Arbitrator (EA) award restraining a deal between Future Retail Ltd and Reliance Retail. Amazon and Future Retail have been engaged in a bitter legal fight over the latter’s Rs 24,713 crore asset sale deal with Reliance Retail. The decision comes as a major blow to the Kishore Biyani-led Future Retail as questions remain regarding the future of the deal.

According to reports, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) — which pronounced the initial award in the case — has concluded the final hearing over Amazon’s plea and a final judgement in the matter is awaited.

In August last year, Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL) had said it will acquire the retail and wholesale business, and the logistics and warehousing business of Future Group for Rs 24,713 crore. The scheme of arrangement entails the consolidation of Future Group’s retail and wholesale assets into one entity Future Enterprises Ltd and then transferring it to Reliance Retail.

However, Amazon objected to the deal. In August 2019, Amazon had agreed to purchase 49 per cent of one of Future’s unlisted firms, Future Coupons Ltd (which owns 7.3 per cent equity in BSE-listed Future Retail Ltd through convertible warrants), with the right to buy into the flagship Future Retail after a period of three to 10 years.

A legal expert told news agency PTI that Future Retail is expected to file a review petition against the order pronounced by the Supreme Court and an appeal under section 37 (20) of the Arbitration Act against the EA’s interim award before the Delhi high court to obtain appropriate relief to pursue its deal with Reliance.

In a statement, the company said that it intends to pursue “all available avenues” to conclude the deal and protect the interests of its stakeholders and workforce. The Future Group company noted that the Arbitral Tribunal at the SIAC has concluded hearings on the questions that whether the interim award of the EA should continue and whether FRL is at all a party in the arbitration proceedings.

The deal’s failure is likely to push Future Retail towards liquidation and impact livelihoods of 50,000 employees and 6,000 small- and medium-sized vendors.

Future Retail and Amazon will have to fight it out in Singapore court.

The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned for August 9 the hearing of a plea filed by e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart challenging an order of Karnataka High Court, which had allowed the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to continue its investigation against them into alleged competition law violations.

The appeal is against the High Court order of allowing CCI to probe Amazon India and Walmart-owned e-commerce firm Flipkart for alleged competition law violations in smartphone sales on the two websites.

The High Court had also dismissed the pleas of e-commerce firms that sought to quash the CCI’s probe. Challenging the order, they both approached the top court. The order of the High Court had come on a complaint by Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh, whose members comprise many traders dealing in smartphones and related accessories.

In another development, online food delivery platform Swiggy said on Thursday it has signed an agreement with Reliance BP Mobility Ltd (RBML) to build an ecosystem for electric vehicle battery-swapping stations across the country.

The partnership aims to synergise their strengths of scale, reach, and technology in creating a greener and cost-effective solution for delivery fleets through innovative business models. Additionally, Swiggy has also partnered with Hero Lectro, a leading e-cycle manufacturer, and Fast Dispatch Logistics, a leading last-mile delivery player in the United Kingdom, to enable end-to-end delivery of Swiggy orders through cargo e-cycles.

The trails are currently running in Bengaluru, New Delhi and Hyderabad. They are aimed towards Swiggy’s commitment to cover deliveries spanning 8 lakh km every day through EVs by 2025.

Making deliveries through EVs is expected to lower the running cost of vehicles by up to 40 per cent, leading to higher earnings for Swiggy’s delivery partners.

“As we continue to work towards providing our consumers with greater convenience, we are also mindful of the environmental impact of our operations and are taking the necessary steps to make our journey more sustainable,” said Swiggy CEO Sriharsha Majety.

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