India’s antitrust watchdog approves Amazon acquiring Cloudtail-parent firm Prione

The Indian antitrust watchdog on Wednesday approved Amazon’s proposed acquisition of estranged partner Catamaran Ventures’ stake in Prione, which operates one of the largest sellers on the e-commerce platform, providing the American giant with the pathway to continue to operate Cloudtail in the world’s second largest internet market.

Amazon proposed the acquisition late last year, months after the American giant and billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy’s Catamaran said they will be discontinuing their six-year joint venture, which operates Cloudtail.

Cloudtail is one of the largest sellers on Amazon in India. Amazon earlier held a 49% stake in Prione, but diluted it down to 24% to comply with a local law that prohibits e-commerce firms from having a direct or indirect ownership in businesses that sell on their marketplaces.

And that’s what makes the approval of Catamaran’s stake sale remarkable. If Cloudtail is now fully owned by Amazon and is permitted to be operational in India, how does it not violate the local law?

Interestingly, the Competition Commission of India itself in 2020 began a probe to evaluate whether the firms were promoting select sellers (those in which they own a stake) on their e-commerce platforms and using business practices that stifle competition.

An Amazon spokesperson in India did not immediately respond to a request for comment.