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AUSTIN, TX-Whole Foods Market is acquiring competitor Wild Oats Markets in an $18.50-per-share deal worth about $700 million, including debt. The transaction, which the parties expect to close in April, gives Whole Foods 110 stores in North America under the banners of four different chains.

Locally-based Whole Foods will finance the deal with the closing of $700 million of senior-term loans and will increase its long-term senior revolving credit facility to $250 million. Wild Oats shares closed at $15.72 just prior to the deal’s announcement.

Whole Foods’ purchase will strengthen its presence in its 11 existing primary markets. The chain will also gain “critical mass” in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions as well as Florida, where Whole Foods has less of a presence, said John Mackey, Whole Foods’ president and chief executive officer, during a conference call.

Whole Foods executives will likely close and relocate some Wild Oats stores, but management says it is too early to give specifics on those actions. “We’re going to be evaluating each of the banners, each of the stores,” Mackey says.

Boulder, CO-based Wild Oats operates stores under the chains Wild Oats Marketplace, Henry’s Farmers Market, Sun Harvest and Capers Community Markets. During the company’s most recently-reported quarter, which ended Sept. 30, total sales were $291.8 million, rising 5.8% from the prior year. Same-store sales increased 1.6%.

Whole Foods operates 191 units in the US, Canada and UK. During its first quarter, which management reported yesterday, total sales rose 12%, to $1.9 billion. Same-store sales shot up 7%.

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