Natural supermarket giant Whole Foods announced Wednesday it would gobble up smaller rival chain Wild Oats. The marketplace for natural and organic food has grown increasingly competitive, a reality that has plagued Whole Foods in recent months.

New York Times:

Stung by competition and investor expectations, Whole Foods Markets, the natural-foods grocer, was expected to announce another quarter of rather mundane earnings Wednesday, at least by the standards of a company that has experienced more than a decade of breakneck growth.

But the chairman and chief executive of Whole Foods, John P. Mackey, has always done things a bit differently, and Wednesday, he surprised investors by announcing a proposed merger with Wild Oats Markets, a similar though much smaller chain.

Whole Foods will pay $565 million or $18.50 a share for Wild Oats, an 18 percent premium over the average share price the last month. The company will also assume $106 million of debt.

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