Amazon and Future agree to out-of-court settlement proposal

Industry:    3 months ago

Amazon.com Inc. and its estranged partner Future Retail Ltd accepted the Supreme Court’s nudge to settle their bitter legal battle over sales of the latter’s assets to Reliance Industries through negotiations.

“We feel instead of all these proceedings, do you want a dialogue or want a mediation kind of a thing?” asked a bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana. The court is also willing to hear the matter on merits; it is ultimately up to the parties, it added.

During the hearing, Amazon’s lawyer Gopal Subramanium suggested that Amazon and Future Group resolve their dispute through negotiations and sought 10 days from the court for talks between the two parties. They now have time till 15 March to explore a settlement.

Responding to Amazon’s offer, Harish Salve, senior counsel for Future Group, said, “I have no problem. The conversation the business people can have. If he wants to have a conversation, what prevents the big boss at Amazon from calling (Future Group founder Kishore) Biyani and having a conversation?”

“As far as talks are concerned, there are three large business houses. They won’t need a mediator. I can assure you if Mr Subramanium gets in touch with Mr Naik, I will arrange a meeting,” Salve told the court.

The top court also directed the Delhi high court and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal not to pass any withholding matters concerning the Future-Amazon and Amazon-Competition Commission of India case.

Amazon and Future have been battling each other in several courts and forums in India and Singapore after Amazon challenged Future’s plan to sell its retail and wholesale assets to Reliance Industries in a 24,713 crore deal. Amazon claims the transaction violates an investment contract that Future Group signed with it.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court was considering a plea by Amazon against a Delhi high court stay on proceedings before a Singapore arbitral tribunal. The top court will now hear the matter on 15 March.

Citing a Reuters news report, Salve said Amazon is likely to file criminal proceedings against Future for allowing transfer of assets to Reliance Industries, despite a legal prohibition. The report cited Reliance’s takeover of nearly 500 Future stores, which Reliance has rebranded.

Salve asked the court to direct Amazon not to proceed with such a case, to which the Amazon counsel clarified that the news report was incorrect and that it won’t pursue any such criminal proceedings.

Nikhil Varma, managing partner of law firm Miglani Varma and Co., said the “decision to arrive at an amicable solution or to endeavour towards such end, albeit late, is very welcome. The perils of prolonged litigation are now known to all and sundry, which has led to major gravitation toward alternative means of dispute resolution. Amid this, it was only unsettling to see how parties involved, either of their own volition or counsels’ advice, were caught in numerous rounds of litigation, benefitting no one. It will be nothing short of a watershed moment if the parties are able to take their negotiations to a logical conclusion.”

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