Indian retail king Biyani quickly sees Future’s $ 3.4 billion deal despite Amazon dispute

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The future Indian group expects rapid regulatory approval of its $ 3.4 billion deal to sell its retail assets, its chief executive said, even as its business partner in Amazon.com Inc’s war is stepping up efforts to block the deal.

FILE PHOTO: Kishore Biyani, CEO and Founder of India’s Future Group, poses after the grand opening of Foodhall, a Future Group premium food supermarket, store in Mumbai, India December 1, 2018. REUTERS / Francis Mascarenhas / File Photo

Future and Amazon disagree over the Indian group’s August deal with Reliance Industries Ltd. The US giant alleges that the deal violated some of its pre-existing contracts with Future.

A New Delhi court in December dismissed Future’s request to curb Amazon’s repeated attempts to get authorities to block the deal. But the judge left the fate of the transaction to regulators.

“The court has already given its opinion that every institution can have an opinion” on the sale, Future Group founder and CEO Kishore Biyani told Reuters in an interview. “So there is no reason for things to be delayed. “

Amazon declined to comment on Biyani’s remarks. Reliance did not respond to a request for comment.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the market regulator that has been reviewing the deal for months, did not respond to a request for comment.

SEBI and Indian stock exchanges could still reject or take longer to approve the deal, which is critical for the survival of Future Retail, more than 1,700 outlets of which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Future Retail has warned that failure to complete the deal could result in the business liquidation and job losses for more than 29,000 employees.

“We have restored businesses to some extent, but there are challenges,” said Biyani, dubbed the king of retail in India for transforming the country’s retail business over the past decades.

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The outcome of the dispute between Future, Reliance and Amazon is shaping the retail landscape in India, particularly over who will have the upper hand in the grocery market which is expected to be worth around $ 740 billion a year. by 2024.

Following Amazon’s 2019 deal with a Future unit, the Indian retailer’s grocery and fashion products are offered for sale on Amazon’s website, while Future stores also serve as a ‘local warehouses serving the food supply chain of the American giant.

Biyani said he had no plans to change his business ties with Amazon despite the sour relationship. Criticizing Amazon, however, Biyani said he did not know what Amazon wanted to achieve by blocking his deal.

“I am disappointed,” he said. “What do they want? They want so many employees to suffer, for business to decline?

Amazon also took Future to an arbitrator in Singapore, who passed an interim order in October saying the Reliance deal should be discontinued. Although Future says the order is non-binding, the U.S. e-commerce giant is continuing its efforts to block the deal.

In a letter Tuesday, Amazon asked India’s BSE and NSE exchanges to suspend their review of the deal in light of the pending arbitration in Singapore.

To support its thesis, Amazon shared on December 30 with the exchanges a confidential 63-page legal opinion signed by a former chief justice of India, Dipak Misra. In the opinion, seen by Reuters, Misra said SEBI or any other statutory authority “cannot ignore” the interim order adopted by the arbitrator.

Misra and the NSE did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment. BSE declined to comment.

Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Abhirup Roy in Mumbai; Edited by William Mallard

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