US natural and organic food retailer Whole Foods Market has announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire UK-based Fresh & Wild Holdings for approximately US$38m, subject to certain post-closing adjustments.

Whole Foods Market said it does not expect the deal, which is expected to close by the end of February, to have an impact on its previously stated diluted earnings per share guidance for the 2004 fiscal year of $1.88 to $1.96. 

Fresh & Wild owns and operates six natural and organic food stores in the London market, located in Camden, City Centre, Notting Hill, Clapham, Soho and Stoke Newington, and one store in Bristol. Additionally the company has one London store in development, in Crouch End, scheduled to open later this year. For the twelve months ended 31 December 2003, total sales were approximately £17.6m (US$31.4m) and identical store sales increased 10%. 

"We are very excited about extending our company mission and the Whole Foods Market brand beyond the borders of the US and Canada and into Europe. The UK is an obvious choice due to the advanced acceptance of organics and the lack of language barriers there," said CEO John Mackey.

"We believe an acquisition is the right strategy for our first overseas venture. As with other successful acquisitions we have made, the infrastructure and intellectual capital we will gain will provide us with an immediate platform for expansion. We are actively exploring real estate opportunities in the London area with the goal of opening a large format Whole Foods Market store over the next few years."