Amazon Wins as Top India Court Halts Reliance, Future Deal
India’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Amazon.com Inc.’s efforts to halt the sale of indebted, cash-starved Future Retail Ltd. to Reliance Industries Ltd., in a big boost to the global retailing giant’s ambitions of dominating the crucial $1 trillion retail market.
Reading the operative part of the verdict, Justice Rohinton F. Nariman ruled that the order of Singapore emergency arbitrator that halted the $3.4 billion deal is enforceable in India.
The verdict is the end of the local chapter of a bitter battle between Jeff Bezos-founded Amazon and India’s second-largest supermarket chain that Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries wants to acquire. The two behemoths, owned by two of the world’s richest men, are fighting for a bigger slice of the only billion-people plus consumer market that’s still open to foreign firms.
Reliance Industries, helmed by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, and the distressed Future Retail will now have to fight it out in the arbitration proceedings at Singapore.
The fight highlights the stakes in India’s rocketing retail market where American retailers Amazon and Walmart Inc.-owned Flipkart are battling billionaire Ambani’s homegrown leader for supremacy. Amazon has pledged $6.5 billion investment in the market while Flipkart recently garnered $3.6 billion in the country’s largest fund raise at a valuation of nearly $38 billion.
The verdict is a setback for Ambani, who owns the country’s largest retail chain and is fast expanding his e-commerce offerings but was relying on Future’s brick-and-mortar stores to add to its footprint.Amazon, which owns a stake in another unlisted Future unit, went to the Singapore arbitration court accusing the Future Group of violating a partnership contract when it agreed to sell Future Retail’s wholesale, warehousing, logistics and other retail assets to Ambani’s conglomerate last year.