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India's top court bars final tribunal ruling on Future's $3.4 bln deal

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NEW DELHI, Feb 22 (Reuters) - India's Supreme Court barredon Monday a final ruling by a tribunal reviewing Future Group's$3.4 billion sale of retail assets until the top court hearsobjections from aggrieved partner Amazon.com Inc, threesources said.

Amazon appealed to the Supreme Court this month againstFuture Group's sale to market leader Reliance Industries, accusing its partner of violating contracts byagreeing to the sale.

The outcome of the tussle involving two of the world'srichest men, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Reliance's Mukesh Ambani,could reshape India's pandemic-hit shopping sector and decide ifAmazon can blunt Reliance's dominance of retail.

Three people familiar with Monday's proceedings said theSupreme Court ordered that while the tribunal can continue toreview the deal and oversee the approval process, it could notpass a final order while the court hears Amazon's concerns.

"This is a good thing for Amazon," said one of the sources,who has direct knowledge of events.

Indian stock exchanges and the antitrust watchdog havealready cleared the deal, which now awaits clearance by theNational Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), in line with regulatoryprocedures.

A second source said Future had only asked the NCLT to letit to call meetings to seek shareholder approvals of the deal.That process will continue, and Future will later seek finalapproval from the tribunal, the source added.

Amazon declined to comment, while Future Group and Reliancedid not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sources sought anonymity as they were not authorised tospeak to media.

In its Supreme Court appeal, Amazon will argue that anarbitration order in October that put the Future-Reliance dealon hold remains valid, Reuters has reported.(Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Suchitra Mohanty in New Delhi;Editing by Clarence Fernandez)