Waitrose reportedly shut down Amazon takeover attempt
Amazon reportedly attempted to initiate takeover talks with the upmarket grocery chain Waitrose in the UK, further highlighting the company’s aim to conquer retail’s largest category through the acquisition of bricks-and-mortar supermarkets.
A recent report in The Sunday Times has suggested that one of Amazon’s most senior executives in Britain, vice president of special projects Ajay Kavan, had several “enormously informal” conversations with a director of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP), Waitrose’s parent company, about a possible deal last November.
A request for a formal meeting, however, was apparently shut down by the JLP board.
According to the report, Amazon’s interest in the 350-store supermarket chain was known to the partnership’s executive team, including Waitrose boss Rob Collins, group finance director Patrick Lewis and head of John Lewis department stores Paula Nickolds, but chairman of the board Sir Charlie Mayfield denied the claim.
“These times are ripe for speculation, but there has been no approach to the partnership by Amazon regarding Waitrose, and nor would I expect there to be,” Mayfield told The Sunday Times.
Analysts have speculated the US-based e-commerce company could buy a British grocery chain since it launched its online grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh, in the market two years ago, with Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose all considered potential targets.
The recent £14 billion merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda is now being cast as a move in part to ward off Amazon’s inevitable move into grocery, and the company’s US$13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods last summer could serve as blueprint for how it will do so.
Since taking over Whole Foods’ 470 grocery stores in the US, Canada and UK, Amazon has cut prices on staples and rolled out free two-hour delivery for online orders in several cities across the US.