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Whirlpool Ups Ante Again

The big washing machine company continues to sweeten its offer for a struggling rival.
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(WHR) - Get Whirlpool Corporation Report

boosted its cash-and-stock bid for rival



for the second time this week and the third time in a month.

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The Benton Harbor, Mich., appliance giant said it would pay $21 a share for struggling Maytag in a deal now valued at $1.79 billion. Whirlpool offered last month to pay $17 a share for the company, which had agreed in May to a $14-a-share takeout by private equity buyer Ripplewood Holdings. Whirlpool boosted its offer to $18 a share

last month and $20 on

Monday, but it still hasn't won any agreement from Maytag management.

Ripplewood's transaction was criticized by some investors in Newton, Iowa-based Maytag as offering an insufficient premium to recent trading prices, considering that a steep plunge in Maytag shares this year had put the stock at multiyear lows. Subsequently, a group led by Bain Capital and China's Haier offered to pay $16 a share for Maytag before bowing out last month. Whirlpool then stepped into the fray.

Whirlpool's rising offer, featuring a $120 million breakup fee if the deal doesn't pass regulatory muster, appears to be aimed at assuaging the fears of Maytag management that a merger wouldn't pass muster with antitrust authorities.

Whirlpool's offer now features a 50% premium to the Ripplewood deal, but concerns about antitrust issues and the speed with which Whirlpool could close the deal continue to hang over the bid.

On Wednesday, Maytag shares rose 41 cents to $19.05 and Whirlpool fell 59 cents to $82.43.