Whirlpool Shrugs Off Maytag Snub

The big Michigan appliance maker will pursue its struggling Iowa rival.
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Whirlpool (WHR) - Get Report pledged to pursue Maytag (MYG) .

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool said Friday it was "disappointed" in the Maytag board's decision, which was announced late Thursday. Maytag said Thursday evening that it was "unable to determine that the Whirlpool Corporation proposal announced on July 17 may reasonably be expected to lead to a financially superior transaction that is reasonably capable of being completed."

Last week, Whirlpool proposed buying Maytag for stock and cash worth about $1.4 billion, or $17 a share. The announcement came after Maytag agreed in May to be taken private by private equity buyers led by Ripplewood Holdings for $14 a share. In the intervening months, a group led by China's Haier and Bain Capital bid $16 a share before dropping out amid hand-wringing over Chinese trade issues.

Maytag said Thursday that it would continue to recommend its merger pact with Ripplewood, though it would also "evaluate the Whirlpool proposal." The company indicated that its agreement with Ripplewood prevented it from considering an offer that isn't superior.

On Friday, though, Whirlpool reiterated its belief that its bid for Maytag is superior. "Our proposal clearly provides superior value to Maytag's shareholders, and we are confident it will receive regulatory approval," Whirlpool said. "We have offered to present our case to the Maytag board and its advisers, and we urge them to act immediately so that we may begin the due diligence process and discussions to reach a definitive agreement. We are evaluating all of our various options and are prepared to pursue them in an expeditious manner."

Maytag's rejection of an apparently superior offer in favor of the deal it has in place has a familiar ring. The company in June defended the Ripplewood plan even after the Bain-Haier group put forth a proposal that would have been worth $2 a share more to Maytag holders. At the time, Maytag said it reasoned that the Ripplewood deal was definitive while the Bain-Haier one was merely a proposal.

Some on Wall Street

questioned that rationale, and Maytag shares have persisted since in trading at around $16, more in line with the Whirlpool and now lapsed Haier bids than the accepted Ripplewood deal.

On Friday, Whirlpool slipped 19 cents to $77.71, and Maytag advanced 34 cents to $15.99.