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Combining forces

Two is better than one. Organic supermarket giant Whole Foods Market, Inc. reached a deal to buy its biggest competitor: rival Wild Oats Markets. On Feb. 21, the Austin, Texas-based grocer announced it had reached a definitive merger agreement to acquire Wild Oats for a cash tender offer of $18.50 per share, plus the assumption of $106 million in debt for a combined deal price of $671 million. In addition to increasing Whole Foods' presence in its existing markets, the proposed transaction will help the retailer gain critical mass in three of its smallest regions — the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains and Florida. Whole Foods currently operates 191 stores in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats has 110 stores in the United States and Canada. The deal is scheduled to close in April.

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