Amazon to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion

NEW YORK — Amazon is making a big bet on the business of food.

The online retail giant announced Friday that is buying organic grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in cash.

Amazon will pay $42 per share of Whole Foods, a 27 percent premium to Thursday’s closing price.

The deal is targeted to close in the second half of the year.

Amazon said Whole Foods stores will continue operating under that name as a separate unit of the company.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will stay on to lead Whole Foods, which will keep its headquarters in Austin, Texas.

The deal shows Amazon’s interest in moving into the business of operating traditional brick-and-mortar stores, even as many retailers that have been crippled by Amazon’s growth have announced a series of store closings.

It also shows Amazon’s growing interest in groceries. The company has its own delivery service, AmazonFresh, and is experimenting with a “click and collect” model, offering customers to buy groceries online, then pick them up in person.

The supermarket business, like many other parts of retail, has been hit hard by increased competition from Amazon itself, as well as Walmart.

Grocery giant Kroger, which operates King Soopers and City Market in Colorado, said Thursday that its profits for the year would be lower than Wall Street expected, sending its stock plunging nearly 20 percent.

Then Kroger’s stock plummeted 13 percent further on Friday after the Amazon-Whole Foods detail was announced.

Shares of other retailers with a big presence in groceries such as Target, Costco, SuperValu and Sprouts plunged as well. And Walmart was down 5 percent.

Amazon’s deal for Whole Foods also demonstrates the financial might of the Jeff Bezos-led company, whose market value is greater than that of the 12 largest traditional general retailers combined.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” Bezos said.