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SIAC concludes hearing over Amazon-Future dispute

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) on Friday concluded its hearing on the plea filed by e-commerce major Amazon against the Rs 24,713-crore deal between Kishore Biyani-led Future group and , according to sources. SIAC had started the final hearing in this matter from July 12.

According to sources close to the development, the tribunal constituted at SIAC for arbitration proceedings related to the Future-RIL deal has concluded its five-day long final hearing.

The Kishore Biyani-led Future group was represented by senior advocate Harish Salve and Amazon by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium.

A judgment in the matter is expected to be pronounced after a month, sources said.

Earlier this year, a three-member tribunal comprising Singaporean barrister Michael Hwang, Albert van den Berg and Jan Paulsson had been formed at the SIAC to look into the matter.

In August last year, Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd 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.

The deal has been contested by Amazon, an investor in Future Coupons that in turn is a shareholder in Future Retail Ltd.

Emails sent to Amazon and Future group did not solicit any response.

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.

Amazon had dragged Future into arbitration at SIAC and in October, an interim award was passed by the Emergency Arbitrator (EA) in favour of the US-e-commerce major that barred Future Retail from taking any step to dispose of or encumber its assets or issuing any securities to secure any funding from a restricted party.

Amazon and Future Group have also filed litigations in Indian courts, including the Supreme Court, on the issue.

Last month, a regulatory filing by Future Consumer Ltd had stated that Future Retail Ltd (FRL) has filed two applications before the SIAC – first being an application challenging the jurisdiction of the Tribunal; and second was an application for the vacation of the EA Order.

On July 8, the Supreme Court bench of Justices R F Nariman, K M Joseph and B R Gavai adjourned its hearing after Salve, appearing for the Future group, informed them about the hearing at SIAC hearing. The matter is scheduled for hearing before a three-judge bench on July 20.

The Future-Reliance deal was initially expected to close by March-end. However, in April, RIL had said it was extending the timeline for the “Long Stop Date” from March 31, 2021 to September 30, 2021.

The deal has received clearance from regulators such as CCI, SEBI and bourses, and the scheme of arrangement is now awaiting the nod from the NCLT and shareholders.

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