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Amazon’s Whole Foods buyout gets green light from federal regulators

Amazon secured approvals Wednesday for its proposed acquisition of Whole Foods from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Whole Foods’ shareholders. The online-retail company said that the clearing of these two hurdles puts it on track to close the merger sometime later this year.
Amazon is negotiating to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, potentially to expand into selling grocery products online. The ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives’ subcommittee on antitrust voiced concerns about the deal last month, and the Federal Trade Commission agreed to review it to see if it would create any kind of monopoly or stifle competition.
In a statement Wednesday, the federal agency said that it had completed its review and that it would not pursue any investigation on the matter. The same day, Whole Foods’ board of shareholders announced that they had voted in favor of going forward with the deal.
Established grocery chains have already been adjusting their own business plans in anticipation of the merger, however. Kroger and Walmart have been racing to develop online-shopping options for their stores so as not to lose business to their new competitor.
“They’re definitely under pressure,” eMarketer analyst Patricia Orsini told Reuters. Without “some sort of e-commerce strategy… you’re going to lose those shoppers to a competitor.”
Amazon has a small but growing number of brick-and-mortar facilities where customers may be able to pick up grocery items after buying them online—in some cases, items may be ready for pickup within minutes of the purchase. The buyup of Whole Foods would give Amazon more than 465 additional stores where it could showcase products and prepare packages for home delivery.

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