By Heather Callaghan, Editor
In a shocking announcement today, Amazon.com Inc. is buying Whole Foods Market Inc. in an all-cash deal valued at about $13.7 billion, including the store chain’s debt. The companies have just made the announcement today (Friday June 16th 2017), adding that Amazon is to pay $42 a share for Whole Foods, “a 27% premium over Whole Foods’ Thursday closing price of $33.06.”
Today marks Amazon’s ominous foray into the world of grocery shopping starting with the high-end favorite, Whole Foods, despite WF’s recent profit slumps. Previously, Amazon expanded on its AmazonFresh delivery service in Seattle before moving on to other locations.
WF CEO John Mackey said in a statement: “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.” The high-end chain will run stores under the WF brand and keep its headquarters in Austin.
The deal is to close in the second half of the year if Whole Foods‘ shareholders and regulators officially approve.
Whole Foods shares leaped 26.8% to $41.91 in early trading Friday. Amazon shares climbed 3.4% to $996.91.
The Amazon deal is “maybe what the doctor ordered for Whole Foods,” said Ron Johnston, who publishes the Shelby Report, which tracks the grocery industry. “Amazon is innovative and aggressive and certainly has the capital to infuse and do the kind of things that fit with their management model.”
The grocery market is a place where Amazon’s competitors, such as Target and Wal-Mart, have historically had a leg up.
That could change, said Paul Cuatrecasas, chief executive of corporate finance advisory firm Aquaa Partners. “This deal should leave no doubt that Amazon is deadly serious about dominating all aspects of retail,” he said.
“It is pivotal because the most effective way for traditional companies to fight off disruption, from the likes of Amazon, has been to depend on their industry expertise and physical footprint, while strategically acquiring tech startups to tool themselves up to compete,” Cuatrecasas said. “This deal has dramatically flipped the table on those traditional companies.”
Aggressive. Dominating. Yes, those are words often used to describe the monolithic company that has even delivered boxes in 30 minutes or less with drones, no less.
This move has left people wondering if Amazon will try to change the successful model of Whole Foods Market. Then again, Whole Foods has been flimsy on the issue of genetic engineering – will that problem be more pronounced with an Amazon takeover?
The buyout is unsettling to those who don’t wish to see large global monopolies, as the pooling of that much power could mean major unpredictability – especially when it comes to something as personal as organic food.
Will it become the next Wal-mart? Will the wholesome food business crumple from within? Will it get better? Time will tell.