Any question about Amazon’s intentions to compete with traditional brick and mortar grocery stores has been answered. Today Amazon and Whole Foods Market announced that the e-commerce giant will buy the Whole Foods Market grocery store chain.
Calling it a definitive merger, the all-cash deal is worth $13.7 billion, or $42 per share, of Whole Foods stock. The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of 2017, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.
Whole Foods Market stores and its headquarters operation won’t look much different after the sale. Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey will stay on as CEO, while the stores will continue to operate using the Whole Foods Market brand. Whole Foods will also retain its same sources worldwide, Mackey said. The headquarters will remain in Austin, Texas.
“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience, and innovation to our customers,” Mackey said in the joint statement.
The Whole Foods deal is Amazon’s largest purchase. According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s biggest purchase to date has been its 2014 $970 million acquisition of Twitch Interactive, Inc. Bloomberg also reported that at the end of March 2017, Amazon was holding about $21.5 billion in cash and equivalents.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said, “Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy. Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades — they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”
Whole Foods Market, the first “Certified Organic” grocer in the U.S., posted sales of $16 billion, according to its fiscal 2016 report. The chain has more than 460 stores in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
In March, Amazon announced AmazonFresh Pickup service for Prime members, a convenience with which customers could order groceries online and pick them up at AmazonFresh depots. The program was reportedly being tested for Amazon employees at two Seattle locations.