BENGALURU: Kishore Biyani’s deal to sell off Future Group assets to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries for Rs 24,713 crore is now on hold as the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has granted an interim relief to Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, for now, two people aware of the matter said.
Earlier this month, Amazon had approached SIAC over its dispute with Future Coupons, one of the holding companies of Biyani’s Future Group where Amazon had invested Rs 1,431 crore, citing breach of terms due to its sale of retail assets to Reliance Industries. This was preceded with a legal notice from Amazon to Future Group citing breach of terms by the latter.
While an interim order puts the merger on hold, the matter will continue to be heard at SIAC before the sole arbitrator, former Attorney General of Singapore, comes to a decision. Legal experts said, typically, it’s the party dissatisfied with the international arbitration order that takes the matter to Indian courts but Amazon might have to approach the Indian courts also, depending on the final order.
“This was an emergency arbitration hearing, where they (Amazon) sought interim stay on the merger so that Future-Reliance deal doesn’t close formally while the matter is in international arbitration,” a person aware of the development said. This comes when Reliance Industries has applied for a clearance with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on its deal with Future Group.
Sources aware of the matter said the arbitration proceedings could go on for several weeks, before a final order comes on this matter. This could also have an impact on banks who have lent to Biyani’s Future Group as the lenders are reportedly worried over their loans turning into non-performing assets (NPA) owing to arbitration proceedings delaying the merger.
“We welcome the award of the Emergency Arbitrator. We are grateful for the order which grants all the reliefs that were sought. We remain committed to an expeditious conclusion of the arbitration process,” a spokesperson of Amazon said on Sunday. A Future Group spokesperson declined to comment on the matter while an email sent to Reliance Industries did not elicit any response immediately. Gopal Subramanium, former Solicitor General of India, is one of the legal counsels for Amazon among others. Harish Salve is representing Future Group in the matter.
Meanwhile, the Future Group is also considering all available legal remedies on this matter for its next course of action, one of the people mentioned above said. However, no decision is made yet.