Amazon Requests SC Order of Resumption of Arbitration, Preservation of FRL Assets

US e-commerce major Amazon on Wednesday feared “disappearances” of assets and asked the Supreme Court for an injunction to preserve Future Retail Ltd’s assets alongside resuming arbitration over FRL’s merger with Reliance Retail ensure.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Judges AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli took note of the US firm’s claims that the “Applecart” was angered by its rivals and questioned Future Group firms FRL and Future Coupons Ltd (FCPL): to respond to Amazon’s preliminary motion to resume arbitration and preserve assets and schedule the hearing for March 23.

Amazon and Future group are embroiled in multi-forum litigation over the issue of FRL’s Rs 24,500 crore merger deal with Reliance Retail Ltd after the US e-commerce giant took the latter to arbitration before the Singapore International Arbitration Center (SIAC). in October 2020.

It was alleged by Amazon that 600 FRL stores were taken away from Reliance on March 3, the charge being fiercely contested by lawyers at Future Group on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court has been told by Amazon that it not only seeks a reopening of the arbitration, but also wants an order so that FRL’s assets are there for her if she wins the arbitration, as the “Applecart has been upset.”

“We will hear it on March 23 and issue some orders. In the meantime, you (Future Retail Ltd and Future Coupons Private Ltd) are submitting the response,” the bank told lead attorneys Gopal Subramanium and Ranjit Kumar, who were acting for the US e-commerce firm.

“We need protection from this court as we fear the disappearance of assets (of FRL),” Subramanium said. First, the bank said if Amazon urgently wants injunctions, it can go to the Delhi High Court or apply to the arbitral tribunal for ease of resuming the arbitration.

“I will wait for this judgment,” said Subramanium.

Senior Attorneys Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for FRL and FCPL respectively, agreed to the resumption of the arbitration.

“I agreed yesterday. We don’t need another hearing,” Salve said.

Amazon’s attorney said that in addition to resuming arbitration, he wanted provisional protection of FRL’s assets.

“I seek interim protection pending arbitration given the current circumstances…Applecart is now upset. For this reason, we say that these assets should not expire pending arbitration,” Subramanium said.

He said if Amazon loses, the merger plan will go through and Reliance Retail will get the assets, and if it wins, the assets should be there.

As a first point, the bank has now published Amazon’s complaint for the hearing on March 23.

On Tuesday, Amazon informed the bank that talks with Future Group to resolve the dispute over Future Retail’s merger agreement with Reliance Retail had collapsed.

Earlier on March 3, the Supreme Court granted Amazon’s motion, giving it 10 days to consider the possibility of resolving the dispute through dialogue with Future Group.

It deals with Amazon’s appeal against the Delhi High Court’s January 5 order staying the arbitration proceedings before the Arbitrator over Future Retail’s merger agreement with Reliance Retail.

It was claimed by Amazon that 600 FRL stores were taken away on March 3, but the fact is not a single store was given up, Salve said. On February 9, the Supreme Court issued notices to Future Group companies about Amazon’s appeal of the Supreme Court’s order.

It had solicited responses from Future Group firms FCPL and Future Retail Limited (FRL) and said it would hear the matter ”without adjournment” on February 23.

The new plea on which the Supreme Court issued the notice was filed by the US firm challenging a January 5 Divisional Chamber of the High Court order staying the Amazon Future arbitration.

The Divisional Chamber of the High Court had also stayed a single judge’s January 4 order dismissing Future Group’s two pleas in law, which sought an order for the arbitral tribunal to rule on its request for closure of the arbitration before proceeding further .

The Supreme Court had said there was prima facie evidence in favor of the FRL and FCPL and that failure to grant a stay would cause them irreparable loss.

Amazon argued that FRL breached its contract by striking a deal to sell its assets to billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail on a lump sum sale basis for Rs 24,500 crore.

In December last year, the Indian Competition Commission suspended its more than two-year-old approval of Amazon’s deal to acquire a 49 per cent stake in the FCPL and FRL promoter and also imposed a Rs 202 crore penalty on e-commerce Major subject.

Amazon has objected to the sell-off plans, accusing Future Group of violating its 2019 investment pact.

Founded in 2008, Future Coupons is engaged in the marketing and distribution of gift cards, loyalty cards and other incentive programs to corporate customers. Amazon Requests SC Order of Resumption of Arbitration, Preservation of FRL Assets

Jaclyn Diaz

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