Singaporean barrister Michael Hwang has joined the three-member arbitration tribunal at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) that is looking into the Amazon and Future Group dispute over the latter's Rs 24,713-crore deal with Reliance Industries, according to sources.
The other two members of the tribunal -- Albert van den Berg and Jan Paulsson -- were named by Amazon and Future. The sources close to the development said that with the appointment of Hwang as the presiding arbitrator, the tribunal is expected to meet soon and begin the arbitration proceedings between Amazon and Future.
The process could take 6-9 months before a decision is made, they added. E-mails sent to Future Group did not elicit a response An Amazon spokesperson said the SIAC Registry has informed the parties that the arbitral tribunal has been constituted. Amazon had dragged Future to arbitration at the SIAC after the indebted Kishore Biyani group firm signed a pact to sell retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing units to billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance in August last year.
The e-commerce major's argument is that Future violated the contract by entering into the deal with rival Reliance.The SIAC, on October 25, 2020, passed an interim order in favour of Amazon barring Future Retail Ltd (FRL) from taking any step to dispose of or encumber its assets or issuing any securities to secure any funding from a restricted party.
In August 2019, Amazon had agreed to purchase 49 per cent of one of Future's unlisted firms -- Future Coupons Ltd -- with the right to buy into flagship, FRL after a period of three to ten years. Future Coupons holds 7.3 per cent equity in BSE-listed FRL -- that operates popular supermarket and hypermarket chains such as Big Bazaar -- through convertible warrants. In August 2020, Future reached an agreement to sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing units to Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL) -- which operates the retail business of RIL -- for Rs 24,713 crore.
While Future claims that Amazon failed to provide any help as the debt-laden Future Group suffered massive setback amid the COVID-induced lockdown, the US e-commerce major contends that there were ongoing discussions on multiple options with partners and with the promoters of Future.
Future Retail had even approached Delhi High Court, which last month upheld Amazon's right to make representations to statutory authorities against the Future Group-Reliance Retail deal. The court also gave a go-ahead to the regulatory authorities to decide about the deal in accordance with the rules and regulations.
Future Group has approached markets regulator Sebi to expedite the review of the proposed deal and issue a no-objection certificate while Amazon has urged that the review of the "impugned transaction" be suspended.