Amazon To Acquire Whole Foods Market For $13.7 Billion

A Wall Street sign near the New York

A Wall Street sign near the New York Stock Exchange on Sept. 30 2008

Online juggernaut Amazon announced Friday, June 16, 2017, that it is buying Whole Foods in a deal valued at about $13.7 billion, including debt.

"Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy", said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive officer (CEO).

So news that Amazon has bought United States supermarket chain Whole Foods for $13.4bn is interesting but perhaps not surprising. With now hundreds of physical stores, Amazon has moved form being an online retailer into brick and mortar.

Amazon, which is known for squeezing suppliers and has been experimenting with its own outlets, will take over a natural and organic grocer pioneer brimming with 456 stores and high-end shoppers but struggling to rein in prices and integrate technology. Walmart, which has the largest share of the USA grocery market, is ramping up its grocery services as a way to fuel online sales. This is an important question because those fees combined may account for more revenue on an order than the commission paid by Whole Foods.

To Amazon, Whole Foods is essentially a knockout punch to the comparatively tiny startups battling it out in the grocery delivery wars. Several Whole Foods locations are also operating in Canada and the United Kingdom.

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Whole Foods will keep its headquarters in Austin and continue to operate under the Whole Foods brand with John Mackey remaining as CEO. Wal-Mart reported $6.9 billion in cash and equivalents and $20.9 billion in free cash flow at its year ended January 31.

Wal-Mart was just one of the many retailers whose stocks were impacted by the news that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods.

News of the deal sent shares of traditional retailers such as Walmart, Target, Costco and Kroger tumbling as much as 13 per cent as investors tried to digest the implications of an Amazon-backed grocery chain.

And Amazon could also sell those gadgets - along with its e-readers, tablets and streaming devices - at Whole Foods.

On the other hand, as she reflected on her experience shopping at Whole Foods Friday, McCarthy admitted there may be some benefit to Amazon's takeover, particularly for elderly people who may not be able to get out to the grocery store on a regular basis.

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For traditional grocers, like Kroger, this purchase makes the market even more price-competitive, she added.

Whole Foods has posted seven straight quarterly sales declines at established stores and recently overhauled its board of directors in the face of pressure from activist hedge fund Jana Partners LLC.

The deal comes after Seattle-based Amazon spent almost a decade trying to find a way into the fresh-food delivery business through various endeavors, without much success.

Charlie O'Shea, a Moody's lead retail analyst, told the Associated Press news agency that the deal could be "transformative, not just for food retail, but for retail in general". Target tumbled by 10 percent and Walmart was down by 6 percent.

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