NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc and India’s second-largest retailer Future Group have agreed to talks proposed by the U.S. e-commerce giant, seeking to resolve legal wrangles at the heart of a battle for supremacy in the country’s vast retail sector.
The unexpected olive branch extended by Amazon comes days after rival Reliance, the country’s biggest conglomerate, began a de facto takeover of Future’s assets, seizing control of some 500 stores.
“Amazon which has been in combative mode is now in conciliatory mode,” said a lawyer involved in the dispute, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gopal Subramanium, a lawyer for the U.S. company, suggested at a Supreme Court hearing on Thursday that the two sides negotiate, saying the “whirlpool” of disputes fought on multiple fronts had been dragging on for too long.
“All that I’m saying is let us at least have a conversation. We cannot allow the spinners’ wheel to continue like this. Please consider this,” Subramanium said. “We must agree, discuss … come face-to-face and discuss the best possibilities.”
Future Group lawyer Harish Salve agreed to negotiations, saying “nobody is winning in this battle.” The judges said the two sides could take 10 days to reach a possible solution.
Legally, Amazon has successfully stalled Future’s $3.4 billion asset sale to Reliance since 2020, accusing its business partner of violating certain contracts. Future denies any wrongdoing, but the U.S. firm’s position has been backed by a Singapore arbitrator and Indian courts.
Despite the dispute being before the courts, Reliance has pressed ahead with rebranding the stores and last month began to take possession of the prized real estate after Future failed to make rental payments to it, sources say.
Currently, operations at hundreds of Future Retail stores remain suspended across India due to the takeover by Reliance.
Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Amazon was planning to file a criminal case against Future for allowing the transfer of assets to Reliance.
After agreeing to the talks, Future’s lawyer Salve cited the Reuters article at the Supreme Court hearing and sought assurances that Amazon would not initiate criminal action during negotiations.
In response, Subramanium said he would advise Amazon “not to do anything to exacerbate the situation.”
Reliance did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Abhirup Roy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Edwina Gibbs)