India's Future Retail takes Reliance deal saga to Supreme Court

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A woman shops inside a Big Bazaar retail store in Mumbai

By Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's Future Retail has asked the country's top court to stall a Singapore arbitration panel's decision to freeze a $3.4 billion asset sale after e-commerce giant Amazon had sought to block the deal.

The dispute started when Future Retail, India's second-largest retailer with more than 1,700 stores agreed last year to sell retail and other operations to India's biggest retail group Reliance Industries.

Amazon has argued that its own deal with one of Future Group's businesses contained clauses prohibiting the Indian entity from selling retail assets to anyone on a "restricted persons" list that included Reliance.

Future Retail, which runs popular Big Bazaar outlets in India, denies having violated any contractual agreements with Amazon.

The long-running dispute has placed two of the world's richest men - Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Reliance majority owner Mukesh Ambani - at odds and could help to determine whether Amazon can blunt Reliance's dominance of India's huge retail market.

On Monday Future Retail urged the Supreme Court to put the Singapore arbitration panel's decision on hold, citing stress on its business unless the the sale goes through, according to a filing seen by Reuters and which is likely to be heard in the coming days.

As in previous court filings, Future said its bank loans and thousands of jobs remain at risk and a failure to conclude the Reliance deal could push it into liquidation.

The Singapore panel put the Future-Reliance deal on hold last year and in October declined Future Retail's request to revoke that decision. Subsequently, a Delhi court also declined to give Future any immediate relief under Indian law to put the panel's decision on hold.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The U.S. company has repeatedly argued that Future Retail must not proceed with the Reliance deal in light of the arbitration panel's decisions.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by David Goodman)

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