Amazon, Samara Capital’s bid to acquire More gets CCI’s nod

INDIA –The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has approved the Samara Capital-Amazon joint bid to acquire Aditya Birla Group’s supermarket chain More.

CCI informed the approval of the proposal to Witzig Advisory Services, the entity where Samara and Amazon will invest and which is acquiring Aditya Birla Retail but however did not issue further elaborations on the conditions of the approval.

“A detailed order is expected from CCI soon which may specify certain conditions.

But there may not be anything major in that since the ownership and deal structure are not in CCI’s domain directly,” said one of the executives to ET.

However, Samara-Amazon JV Witzig now has to ensure that the deal is in compliance with the revised ecommerce foreign direct investment (FDI) policy issued last month that has left most ecommerce firms wavering.

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) is the body in charge of issues of ownership and deal structure and also notified the new FDI norms for ecommerce marketplaces last month.

“Samara-Amazon may still have to modify the deal structure to be compliant with the DIPP notification; otherwise, it can risk itself into legal problems,” said the executive.

Witzig, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samara Alternative Investment Fund, signed an agreement to acquire ABRL in September 2018 for about US$ 589.4million (Rs 4,200 crore) and later filed an application to CCI for approval in October last year.

According to the application, Amazon NV Investment is to acquire 49% stake in Witzig while Samara will control the company with majority 51% stake.

The US based multinational firm is yet to acquire the stake since it has been awaiting CCI approval.

Under the new FDI norms, firms are prohibited from selling on ecommerce marketplaces.

Subsequently, this may make it difficult for Amazon to strengthen the relationship between its India marketplace, amazon.in, and More supermarkets and use the latter as a seller on its hyperlocal food and grocery platform, Amazon Prime Now.

More is a major retail store brand of Aditya Birla Retail Limited (ABRL) competing with supermarket chain Future Group, Reliance Retail and D-Mart.

ABRL operates over 520 supermarkets under the brand More providing online grocery retail services in Bangalore, NCR, and Pune through its e-Commerce platform.

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