UPDATE: The Federal Trade Commission released the following statement regarding Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods: "The FTC conducted an investigation of this proposed acquisition to determine whether it substantially lessened competition under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, or constituted an unfair method of competition under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Based on our investigation we have decided not to pursue this matter further. Of course, the FTC always has the ability to investigate anticompetitive conduct should such action be warranted."
Amazon is one huge step closer to wrapping up its proposed $13.7 billion acquisition of Austin-based Whole Foods Market.
On Wednesday, August 23, shareholders of Whole Foods approved the $42-a-share deal, which was announced in June. If federal regulators give the okay, the Amazon-Whole Foods marriage will be consummated by the end of this year. The shareholders meeting took place at Whole Foods’ headquarters, above its flagship Austin store at Fifth Street and North Lamar Boulevard.
Shareholders of Seattle-based Amazon aren’t required to sign off on the deal, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Whole Foods, founded in September 1980 in Austin, operates more than 460 stores in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Facing pressure from competitors that have bulked up their offerings of natural and organic foods, Whole Foods’ growth has stalled in recent years. The Amazon acquisition should provide more solid financial footing for Whole Foods, while giving the e-commerce giant a nationwide network of brick-and-mortar locations to serve as grocery pickup and delivery hubs.
For now, it’s unclear precisely how Whole Foods will be run under the auspices of Amazon, including what effect the deal will have on Whole Foods’ Austin headquarters.
Several members of Congress have called for close federal scrutiny of the deal, as has the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents more than 1 million retail workers in the U.S.
In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has yet to weigh in on the deal, the union’s president, Marc Perrone, sounded a warning about the combination of Amazon and Whole Foods.
“Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is not about improving customer service, products, or choice. It is about destroying Whole Foods jobs through Amazon-style automation,” Perrone wrote. “We strongly urge the FTC to carefully review this merger. We believe a fair and impartial analysis will prove that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is a competitive threat to our economy that will hurt workers and communities.”
Molly Johnson-Jones, senior analyst at GlobalData, tells Chain Store Age that she doubts the Amazon-Whole Foods deal will encounter stiff opposition from federal regulators.
“Although there was some talk of the Federal Trade Commission being notified of potential job losses as a result of the deal and [President] Trump wanting to look into Amazon’s finances, it is unlikely that there will be any meaningful objections to the deal as it ultimately benefits the consumer and enhances innovation in a rather stagnant market,” Johnson-Jones says.