Amazon.com Inc. will buy Whole Foods Inc. in a deal valued at about $13.7 billion, the companies said in a statement Friday morning.

The acquisition, which is expected to close later this year, could boost the upscale supermarket chain's profit margins and set a new standard for its competitors, according to experts.

“Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades — they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue," Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in the statement.

The grocery chain known for its focus on natural and organic foods will continue to run its stores — including 11 in New York City, nine in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn — under its name. It will also keep its headquarters in Austin, Texas. 

“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” said Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO John Mackey.

The merger is subject to approval by Whole Foods' shareholders, among other conditions. Amazon's $42-per-share offer represents an uptick of 27 percent in the supermarket chain's stock as it stood at the close of markets Thursday. Friday morning, Whole Foods saw its shares rise $9 in value by 10 a.m.

Friday's news comes roughly two months after activist investor Jana Partners purchased a nearly nine percent stake in Whole Foods' stock, and, according to reports, suggested the grocery company consider putting itself up for sale.

In a recent interview with Texas Monthly, CEO Mackey condemned Jana as "greedy bastards."

"These guys just want to sell us, because they think they can make forty or fifty percent in a short period of time," he was quoted as saying.

The impending sale announced Friday brings for Whole Foods, according to Neil Saunders, an analyst at GlobalData Retail in New York, "an opportunity here for Amazon to bring its expertise and logistics and help them turn around their business.

"I think that Amazon has come to the rescue of a retailer in distress," he said.

Whole Foods is set to open its 12th New York City outpost in Harlem this July.

Amazon established its first brick-and-mortar presence in New York City last month with a bookstore in The Shops at Columbus Circle.

With Reuters