Online retail giant Amazon announced on Friday that it had reached a definitive agreement to acquire Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion.
In a news release, Amazon said it would acquire the upscale supermarket chain for $42 a share in an all-cash transaction that includes that company's net debt, Efe news reported.
Whole Foods, founded in 1978, has more than 460 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, employs 87,000 people and is the leading natural and organic foods supermarket.
"Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy," Amazon's founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said.
The supermarket chain will continue to operate stores under the Whole Foods Market brand and John Mackey will remain the company's CEO, the release said.
The transaction is subject to approval by Whole Foods Market's shareholders, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, but the parties expect to close the transaction in the second half of 2017, it added.
This deal points towards Amazonâ€™s big focus on the grocery business, especially in the US.
Its AmazonFresh delivery service, which has been slow to take off, accounting for 0.8% of all grocery purchases last year. Walmart sold 17.3% of the countryâ€™s groceries, while Kroger sold 8.9%, according to Bloomberg data.
According to a report by Washington Post, news of the deal sent shares of rival grocers plummeting, thanks to the prospect of an Amazon-backed grocery chain. SuperValu, with a network of 2,000 stores across the US, took one of the biggest hits, with a 14% drop on Friday. Kroger, which was rumored to be considering takeover of Whole Foods as well last year, was down 9%. Meanwhile, shares of Whole Foods rose nearly 30%, while the Amazon stock was up over 2%.
(With inputs from IANS)
Image: Kari Sullivan