In latest twist, India’s Future Group challenges lenders in court

It’s asking India’s top court to order its lenders and central bank to give it more time, not classify it as a defaulter.

Kishore Biyani, chief executive officer of Future Group, attends the inauguration of a warehouse in Nagpur, India
Future Group founder Kishore Biyani (pictured) has failed to sell retail assets due to an ongoing dispute with Amazon [File: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg]

Indian retailer Future Group is challenging its lenders in the Supreme Court to avoid facing insolvency proceedings over missing payments, citing its dispute with partner Inc, according to a legal filing reviewed by Reuters.

Future, the country’s second-largest retailer, has since 2020 failed to complete its $3.4bn retail asset sale to a rival due to a dispute with Amazon, which argues the Indian group violated certain non-compete contractual terms the two sides had. Future denies any wrongdoing.

Future told Indian exchanges this month it was unable to pay 35 billion rupees ($470m) it owed to its lenders on December 31 as it could not sell certain small stores due to the dispute with Amazon. It had hoped to use a 30-day grace period to resolve the situation.

After failing to do so, Future in a new court filing at the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked judges to order its lenders and the country’s central bank to grant more time to execute the sale, and that it not be classified as a defaulter.

The company’s 1,700 outlets include roughly 900 small-sized stores, with the rest being large-format hypermarkets and fashion outlets.

Growing distress

The latest legal challenge by Future signals growing distress at the retail group, which has said it fears liquidation and more than 27,000 job losses at its retail arm if its plan to sell assets to rival Reliance Industries fails.

Future’s filing included a letter from the State Bank of India to the company on January 15, warning the company that if it does not pay the amount due to lenders, it could face legal action.

This, SBI warned in its letter, could include “initiating insolvency proceedings” against Future, in line with Indian laws.

Future’s main retail arm, Future Retail, asked judges to quash such default notices from its lenders, its filing showed.

Future “finds itself in a peculiar position where it wishes to comply” with its obligations to lenders, but “the litigation with Amazon is effectively preventing it from doing so,” Future’s counsel Yugandhara Pawar Jha said in the filing.

The court petition, which is not public, was first reported by Reuters.

Amazon has argued that Future violated the terms of a 2019 deal the pair signed when the US firm invested $200m in a Future unit. The US company’s position has so far been backed by a Singapore arbitrator and Indian courts.

Source: Reuters