Archive for July, 2005

Maytag agrees to open its books to Whirlpool

July 27, 2005
Maytag agrees to open its books to Whirlpool
 
Date July 27, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Maytag Corp., which has already accepted one buyout offer, has agreed to open its books to Whirlpool Corp. which has proposed paying even more for its appliance making rival.

Whirlpool said in a statement today that it has entered into a mutual confidentiality agreement with Newton, Iowa-based Maytag under which it can examine Maytag‘s financial records in more detail. Whirlpool has offered $18 a share, or about $1.43 billion, for Maytag.

Maytag has already signed an agreement to be acquired by Triton Acquisition Holding Co., an investment group led by New York-based Ripplewood Holdings, for $14 per share, or about $1.13 billion.

Maytag shareholders are scheduled to vote on that offer on Aug. 19.

Maytag spokesperson John Daggett confirmed today the two companies have entered a mutually agreeable confidentiality agreement and that Whirlpool had begun its due diligence process concerning the takeover offer. Maytag had said Sunday that it was hesitant to open its books to Whirlpool.

Maytag‘s board of directors was hesitant because of concerns over the timing of the completion of a purchase and the valuation of stock in the deal, which would pay Maytag shareholders half in cash and half in Whirlpool stock.

Other concerns included the time Whirlpool would take to study Maytag finances.

Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool on Friday increased its bid to acquire Maytag by $1 per share from $17 per share.

On Sunday, Maytag said it had concluded the Whirlpool offer was likely to prove better than the Triton deal and had a reasonable chance of gaining regulatory approval. But Maytag‘s board continued to support the Triton offer.

Maytag had previously asserted concerns over whether a Whirlpool purchase of Maytag would be approved by federal regulators, who might have antitrust concerns about the combination of the leading appliance manufacturer with the nation’s third largest.

Whirlpool has said it studied the antitrust issue extensively and offered assurance that merging the two companies would be approved.

Maytag questions give Whirlpool an opening

July 26, 2005
Maytag questions give Whirlpool an opening
 
Date July 26, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By CAROL ANN RIHA

Associated Press Writer

DES MOINES — Whirlpool Corp. is still reviewing Maytag Corp.’s seemingly chilly reception to its sweetened offer of $18 per share for the Iowa-based appliance maker.

“Their press release was a little bit of a dance, but ‘We won’t slow dance,'” said Laura Champine, an analyst with Memphis, Tenn.-based Morgan, Keegan & Co. “It was a starting place.”

Maytag, in a brief statement late Sunday, acknowledged that Whirlpool’s offer is better than the $14-per-share offer under its existing merger agreement with Ripplewood-led Triton Acquisition.

Still, it said it needed more information before turning its secrets over to a competitor.

The statement cited Maytag‘s uncertainty “as to the timing of completion, the form of consideration and … the mechanisms referred to by Whirlpool to address regulatory and other closing risks.”

Maytag spokesman John Daggett declined to elaborate Monday.

“We’re analyzing Maytag‘s statement,” Stephen Duthie, Whirlpool spokesman, said Monday.

Champine said she saw nothing coy in Maytag‘s statement.

“I think that they feel they need to firm things up with Whirlpool before they make any kind of commitments to them,” she said.

She thought Whirlpool would act quickly to assuage Maytag‘s concerns.

In a letter Friday, Whirlpool President and CEO Jeff M. Fettig said the Benton Harbor, Mich.-based company had been disappointed at Maytag‘s response to its “superior proposal” and accused Maytag executives of indecision.

But Champine said the letter also provided Newton-based Maytag with key information, including that Whirlpool would pay whatever fee would be required if Maytag broke its agreement with Triton.

Fettig’s letter also said Whirlpool’s lawyers had provided Maytag with an explanation of why Whirlpool sees no antitrust problems with the deal.

Champine said it was important that Whirlpool had informally checked with top customers and found no objections to the deal.

“If the customers aren’t going to say it’s anticompetitive, it’s tougher for anyone to make that argument,” Champine said.

She said she was sure Whirlpool would like to proceed with examining the books as quickly as possible.

Whirlpool has said that the value of the deal “derives its value from important efficiencies and the opportunity for Maytag brand revitalization.”

Maytag brands include Hoover, Jenn-Air, Magic Chef and Amana.

Maytag says Whirlpool offer may be better, proceeds slowly

July 25, 2005
Maytag says Whirlpool offer may be better, proceeds slowly
 
Date July 25, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By Associated Press

and Daily News Staff

DES MOINES — Maytag Corp. said it has determined an $18-per-share purchase proposal from Whirlpool Corp. may be a better deal than one offered by a New York investment firm, but a company statement said Maytag remains hesitant to immediately open its books to Whirlpool.

Whirlpool on Friday increased its bid to acquire Maytag by $1 per share from $17 per share. The deal would be worth about $1.43 billion.

Maytag has signed an agreement to be bought by Triton Acquisition Holding Co., an investment group led by New York-based Ripplewood Holdings.

Triton has offered $14 per share, or about $1.13 billion.

Maytag shareholders are scheduled to vote on that offer on Aug. 19.

As part of the upped purchase proposal, Whirlpool also offered to pay a $40 million breakup fee, which Maytag has agreed to pay Triton if it backs out of that deal. Whirlpool would also be willing to offer Maytag a reverse break-up fee payable to Maytag if the proposal does not get regulatory approval.

Whirlpool issued a harsh criticism of Maytag officials Friday, saying the company was “jeopardizing this important opportunity for consumers, trade customers and shareholders of both Maytag and Whirlpool.”

Whirlpool CEO Jeff M. Fettig said Maytag should open its books so Whirlpool could study finances and immediately enter into negotiations for a purchase deal.

He gave Maytag officials until 6 p.m. EDT Sunday to answer.

Maytag‘s statement, released just minutes before the deadline, said it had concluded the Whirlpool offer was likely to prove better than the Triton deal and had a reasonable chance of gaining regulatory approval. But Maytag‘s board of directors continue to support the Triton offer, the statement said.

Maytag had previously asserted concerns over whether a Whirlpool purchase of Maytag would be approved by federal regulators, who might have antitrust concerns about the combination of the leading appliance manufacturer with the nation’s third largest.

Whirlpool has said it studied the antitrust issue extensively and offered assurance that merging the two companies would be approved.

Maytag also said Triton asserted that Whirlpool does not meet the criteria required to be considered as another suitor. The agreement with Triton would require Maytag to pay a $40 million breakup fee if Maytag pursues another offer.

Maytag believes that its actions are in accord with the merger agreement and do not give Triton Acquisition any termination rights,” the Maytag statement said.

Maytag‘s board was still hesitant to open its books to Whirlpool because of concerns over the timing of the completion of a purchase and the valuation of stock in the deal, which would pay Maytag shareholders half in cash and half in Whirlpool stock. Other concerns included the time Whirlpool would take to study Maytag finances.

Maytag noted that before it would be willing to share competitively sensitive information it would require greater certainty with respect to these and other issues,” the statement said.

Maytag spokesman John Daggett declined to comment further.

Whirlpool spokesman Tom Kline said the company would have little comment until after it studied the Maytag statement.

“Whirlpool acknowledges Maytag‘s response, which we are now in the process of reviewing,” he said.

What a Whirlpool purchase of Maytag would mean for Newton remains unclear.

Last Friday in a conference call on second quarter earnings, Maytag CEO Ralph Hake spoke briefly about the companies cost cutting plans and mentioned the Newton facility.

“Our discussions are ongoing with the labor unions in both our Newton and North Canton facilities to identify cost improvement,” he said. “Over the next few months, we expect to finalize our operational plans to migrate viable product lines to low-cost manufacturing locations”

Hake opted not to answer questions from investors during the conference call, citing the pending acquisition of the company as the reason.

Maytag stock was up 95 cents this morning to $17.15.

Maytag turns profit, rebuffs Whirlpool

July 22, 2005
Maytag turns profit, rebuffs Whirlpool
 
Date July 22, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
(AP) — Household appliance maker Maytag Corp., which is the target of a takeover battle, said today it swung to a second-quarter profit from a year-ago loss, but its results failed to meet Wall Street expectations as higher steel, resin and fuel costs offset improved sales growth.

The earnings report came a day after the Newton-based company rebuffed Whirlpool Corp.’s bid to acquire Maytag. Maytag said its board continues to recommend a competing offer but will still evaluate Whirlpool’s $1.37 billion cash-and-stock bid.

In the statement issued late Thursday, Maytag said its board of directors “was unable to determine” that the Whirlpool Corporation’s cash and stock takeover bid “may reasonably be expected to lead to a financially superior transaction that is reasonably capable of being completed.”

Maytag stated that such a determination was required under the existing $1.1 billion merger offer submitted by investment group Triton Acquisition Holdings, which is led by Ripplewood Holdings, and that such a determination needed to be made before the company could give Whirlpool financial information and start negotiations.

The company said it would continue to evaluate the Whirlpool proposal. A shareholder vote on the Ripplewood-led group is set for Aug. 19.

Whirlpool spokesman Steve Duthie said Thursday night his company had not received a formal response to its proposal.

“Nonetheless, we remain intent on acquiring Maytag,” Duthie said.

Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig expounded on the reasons for the company’s interest in Maytag following its earnings release on Thursday where the company saw a 9 percent drop in second quarter profits.

“Our motivation is very simple: This is a great opportunity for us to create value for our shareholders and for our customers, and we believe this because it is potentially a great fit with our strategy,” he said.

Whirlpool believes it “can revitalize the Maytag brands in the marketplace” and can successfully complete the transaction and integrate the companies, he said.

“There really is no other motive or reason for us to pursue this,” Fettig said.

Maytag said net income totaled $3.5 million, or 4 cents per share, from a loss of $41.1 million, or 52 cents per share, a year ago. The latest quarter included charges of 3 cents per share, compared with 61 cents of items last year.

Total sales rose 6.7 percent to $1.23 billion from $1.15 billion last year.

Excluding charges, the company’s 7-cents-per-share profit missed analysts’ expectations for earnings of 10 cents per share, though sales came in above estimates of $1.15 billion, according to a Thomson Financial survey of analysts.

The company said sales were up year-over-year in all major categories of home appliances — refrigerators, laundry, cooking, dishwashers and floor care. Sales of commercial products declined versus a year ago, a result of continued weakness in the vending industry.

Maytag said all Hoover products experienced significant year-over-year growth, with market share gains in upright vacuums as the primary sales driver.

“Compared to last year, operations benefitted from sales growth, a positive mix in major appliances and savings from our ‘One Company’ restructuring and the Galesburg plant closing,” said Maytag CEO Ralph Hake. “However, these improvements were offset by rising raw material costs including steel and resins, higher fuel and transportation costs and lower floor care pricing.”

The company reaffirmed that its full-year earnings are expected to range between 45 cents to 55 cents per share, including about 10 cents in restructuring charges. Analysts on average are currently looking for profit of 54 cents per share.

Eating us alive — a bite at a time

July 21, 2005
Eating us alive — a bite at a time
 
Date July 21, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
By Sen. Dennis Black  
 
Iowans are anxious regarding the future of Maytag. Every day seems to bring news reports that keep the pot stirred and we common folk are fairly confused about what’s going on. Unquestionably those most affected, the working men and women, are investing their one, productive life in a job that they initially sought because it was a great job with a great future in a stable company with a bright future.

These folks don’t deserve this uncertainty. The work ethic of the Maytag factory worker is known across the nation. The symbiotic relationship that existed between labor and management resulted in a company with a product that was the envy of the industrial world.

Then, in the 1980s, the internal decision was made for Maytag to take on new product lines. Not products that were manufactured in Newton or even Iowa, but elsewhere. That was the beginning of the slide down that slippery slope, and here we are today, with every business analyst and consultant attempting to second-guess the ramifications of a buy-out. The question is “Who,” and then the question becomes, “Now what?”

I MADE A BIG MISTAKE a couple weeks ago by picking up the May 9, 2005, Newsweek. The Special Report, being the focus of this edition of the magazine was, “Does the Future Belong to China?” One has to assume that Newsweek is pretty adept at getting their facts straight prior to publication, and thus one would consider this report to have validity.

The Haier Group (pronounced higher), is the behemoth Chinese appliance maker and one the media has reported to have indicated an interest in Maytag. According to Newsweek, the Haier Group “aims to create a global brand.” And, another quote from Newsweek, “Haier is one of the world’s top five producers of household appliances, with 30,000 employees and more than $12 billion in revenue.” The CEO of Haier, Zhang Ruimin, is “an influential member of the Chinese Communist Party.” The Newsweek article on Haier’s CEO Zhang is entitled, “A Jack Welch of Communists.” The inference is that Zhang would emulate Welch, the legendary chairman of General Electric, purported to be a take-no-prisoners tough-guy who supposedly will get his corporate desired results at any cost.

Reading this article ruined my day, because it was just another reminder of what is occurring in America. We’re doing it to ourselves when we purchase goods not made in America. Yet, the opportunity to buy “American” is less and less as each day passes. Most of our hard and soft goods are already imported. When outsourcing and foreign “competition” displace America’s manufacturing workforce, who will have the money to purchase the goods that are being manufactured outside the continental U.S.? Will we continue as a superpower, able to protect our borders from ideologies inconsistent with ours and at odds with our political, economic and moral values?

On Monday we learned that Whirlpool has joined the auction. Who’s next? But at least Whirlpool and Ripplewood Holdings LLC are domestic corporations. Then, to further raise my ire, the market analysts suggest that “antitrust concerns” could result in government scrutiny because Whirlpool/Maytag/Jenn-Air/Amana would approach 50 percent of the U. S. market. What? No concerns that a “collective company” with Chinese Communist ties wants to consume a major domestic corporation in the heartland of North America? Surely, Fred Maytag is shaking his head in disbelief.

ANYONE NOT CONCERNED about America’s future has their head in the sand. America is being consumed, and by our own doing. According to Newsweek, “Last year Wal-Mart imported $18 billion worth of goods from China. Of Wal-Mart’s 6,000 suppliers, 80 percent are in just one country — and it isn’t the United States.”

Americans must look to our President and Congress to get a handle on this insanity that is erasing our rich tradition and heritage of hard work and product creation. The free-enterprise system at work, you say? Competition in its purest form? Under normal circumstances I could buy that! But not when we’re competing with these countries in a global market where human rights, civil rights and environmental concerns aren’t even remotely part of the equation. America will not step to that level, for to do so would violate and negate the very precepts upon which this nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights were created.

The legacy of this generation’s leaders will be written as to how they met and conquered this voracious monster that is eating us alive — a bite at a time.

Questions or comments? Write me at Box 1271, Newton, 50208; or, e-mail dblack@black4senate.com.

Maytag proxy statement outlines merger bid

July 21, 2005
Maytag proxy statement outlines merger bid
 
Date July 21, 2005
Section(s) Local News
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

The proxy statement being sent to Maytag shareholders this week in advance of their August vote on whether to support a board-of-directors-backed buyout by the Ripplewood-led investment team shows a company clearly struggling over the past few years as it attempted to find its place in the globalized home appliance industry.

Maytag shareholders will vote on the merger plan with Triton Acquisition Holding Co., at a special meeting set for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 19 at the Sodexo DMACC Conference Center in Newton. Triton, a Delaware corporation, was created as a result of the buyout effort by the private equity firms Ripplewood Holdings, Goldman Sachs & Co., J. Rothschild Group and RHJ International.

A majority vote in favor of the merger must be secured for the buyout to go forward.

On May 19, Triton offered Maytag $14 a share in cash for each of the 79 million outstanding shares in a deal valued at $1.13 billion, including the assumption of about $975 million in debt.

Unsolicited bidding for the Newton-based corporation soon began, first by a consortium led by Haier America and two private American investments firms, Blackstone Capital and Bain Capital Partners that contemplated a $16 per share acquisition valued at $1.28 billion. Haier never offered a final bid for the company and officially dropped intentions of acquiring the American manufacturing icon, known for decades by Americans through its “Old Lonely” advertisement campaigns, late Tuesday. Chinese companies, like Haier, China’s largest manufacturer of appliances, have been attempting in recent years to gain access to North America and world markets through acquisitions of established U.S. companies.

Just days before Haier’s decision to withdraw from consideration for a Maytag acquisition, Whirlpool, America’s largest home appliance-based manufacturer, upped the bid for Maytag with a $17-per-share cash and stock offer valued at $2.3 billion. Whirlpool, in a letter to Maytag dated last Sunday, said the merger of the two American-based companies would benefit both in the global appliance industry. Whirlpool said it is ready to do due diligence and present a firm offer for Maytag prior to the scheduled shareholder meeting on the Ripplewood-led offer. It is uncertain how Haier’s decision to drop Maytag acquisition efforts may impact Whirlpool’s on-going considerations.

Whirlpool reported second quarter results today that showed net earnings of $96 million compared to $106 million in the same period the year before. The decline was driven by significantly higher material and oil-related costs, it said.

Net sales of $3.6 billion were a second quarter record and increased 9 percent from last year.

The company’s second quarter results reflected approximately $180 million of higher material and oil-related costs, as well as unfavorable currency translations and higher restructuring expenses compared to the quarter a year ago.

For the first half of 2005, Whirlpool has record sales of $6.8 billion, an 8 percent increase from the year before.

Commenting on the bid, Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig said, “We believe that our proposal is both financially and strategically compelling. The combination would deliver significant value to both Maytag and Whirlpool shareholders and lead to substantial efficiencies with direct benefits to consumers and trade customers.”

Whirlpool is the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances with annual sales of more than $13 billion, 68,000 employees and nearly 50 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world.

It’s possible other bidders might step forward. Swedish-based Electrolux’ held a conference call in connection with its second quarter earnings on Tuesday, where the chief executive officer left open the question whether it was considering a bid for Maytag.

“I think whoever buys Maytag … will have quite the tough journey,” said CEO Hans Straberg, the Associated Press reported.

Maytag‘s Problems

Maytag, the nation’s third largest appliance manufacturer, has been squeezed in recent years by increasing steel and fuel costs, intense competition from Asian companies and slipping profitability. Its North American market share has fallen to about 15 percent, and it has seen extreme pressures on its stock price, falling below $10 a share for a period this year.

Last year, Maytag eliminated 1,100 salaried workers (20 percent of the workforce) as part of its “One Company” restructuring plan that merged Maytag‘s Hoover business operations with Maytag Appliances and its corporate structure in an effort designed to save $150 million in annual costs. It also closed a refrigerator plant in Galesburg, Ill., moved some of those operations to a new plant in Mexico and its recently-acquired Amana operation in Iowa. The company also agreed to settle a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit over problems with its early generation horizontal-axis Neptune washing machines.

Locally, the company weathered a three-week strike at its Newton laundry facility. Workers eventually agreed to a contract that called for significant increases in worker health care payments, although the actions taken by the collective bargaining unit was later termed not significant enough to warrant any new production platforms in Newton. Employment levels have continued to drop at Maytag Plant 2, built just after the conclusion of World War II, with local workers saying they have been informed another large layoff is scheduled for late August. Maytag officials would not confirm a pending layoff.

Maytag was successful in gaining contract concessions at both its Amana and Herrin, Ill., operations. It announced in April after its poor first quarter earnings report that saw profits fall by 80 percent from the same period the year before, that “more aggressive steps” need to be made to improve its cost position by reducing its manufacturing footprint.” Although no final decisions have been made, “base cost projections” provided to Triton in regard to its foregoing operations calculate $140 million “as a reasonable estimate of the cost savings associated with the proposed shutdowns” of its Newton, North Canton, Ohio and Florence, S.C., operations.

Ripplewood

Ripplewood’s interest in Maytag dates back to February 2004 when it was noted at a meeting of the board of directors that Ripplewood “might have an interest in discussing with the company an evaluation of the global competitive environment of the home appliance industry,” the proxy states. Ripplewood representatives first contacted Maytag CEO Ralph Hake on March 4, 2004.

In June, Hake first met with Ripplewood CEO Tim Collins. Discussions centered on the globalization of the home appliance industry and its impacts on Maytag. Hake informed Collins at that meeting “Maytag was not interested in pursuing a relationship at that time.”

Discussions, however, continued between Ripplewood and Maytag over the ensuing months before entering into a confidentiality agreement between Maytag and Ripplewood in September. On Dec. 2, 2004, Ripplewood made a preliminary proposal to acquire Maytag for $23.50 per share in cash. The board of directors discussed the offer in detail before deciding not to respond to the offer at that time.

In February, Ripplewood made another offer of $17.25. The decrease in the offer price from Ripplewood’s December proposal was “caused by numerous considerations,” the proxy states, “including the significant deterioration in the company’s financial performance, the failure to meet the 2005 ‘0 + 12’ operating profit forecast by 78 percent for the month of January 2005, the negative earnings momentum reflected in the company’s stock price, which had fallen from $20.37 per share on Dec. 1, 2004, to $15.57 per share on Feb. 18, 2005, and significant recent issues in the company’s distribution channels.”

Ripplewood told Maytag in February that it understood the board might not think shareholders would find the $17.25 offer attractive and would be willing to raise the offer as high as $18.75 per share in cash if its lenders “were satisfied with additional diligence” on the company’s first quarter earnings.

The Maytag board of directors voted 8 to 2 to reject pursuing a transaction at that time.

On May 5, Ripplewood submitted a written proposal to acquire Maytag for $14 in cash. The proposal was down from its February offer due to considerations including “that Maytag had experienced significant deterioration in its core business fundamentals.”

Discussions about the offer continued between Maytag board members. CEO Hake, according to the proxy, “noted that while the company faced challenges and while in his view it could take several years for the company to achieve a satisfactory earnings turnaround and while management had recently failed to accurately predict future earnings, it was nevertheless his belief that the $14 per share offer price in Ripplewood’s May 5 proposal did not reflect the value of the company and that he would not as a director vote in favor of a transaction with Ripplewood at that price.”

On May 19, at a special meeting of the board of directors, eight directors voted in favor of accepting the $14 offer with Hake and Dr. W. Ann Reynolds abstaining and one member absent. The announcement of the merger proposal was made that evening.

Reasons to recommend approval

The proxy statement outlines the board of directors’ reasons for seeking shareholder approval of the Ripplewood offer.

The 16-point bulletins included in the proxy report note the “adverse conditions” in the home appliance industry caused in part by increasing globalization, the negative earnings guidelines projected for the year and the board’s consideration that a turnaround could “take several years,” the company’s “consistent failure to achieve its one-year management forecasts beginning in 2003,” its downgrade in debt ratings, its ability to continue to solicit for better offers, its financial advisor’s opinion the offer price was fair, the fact the offer price of $14 was 21 percent above the closing price of the stock the day before the merger agreement was announced (although nearly 30 percent below the price when Maytag first began discussions with Ripplewood in 2004) and the ability of Maytag to continue to conduct negotiations with additional parties for a superior takeover arrangement.

Drawbacks to the merger arrangement discussed by the board prior to its approval, according to the proxy, include Triton’s inability to acquire its debt financing, the inability of current shareholders to benefit from future gains made by the privately held company, the risks to the company should the merger not close — including the diversion of management and employee attention, employee attrition and the effect on business customer relationships, the different interests of Maytag‘s directors and executives should the merger move forward compared to typical stockholders and the possibility of being required to make the $40 million agreement termination fee.

Special interests

The proxy statement warns shareholders that some of Maytag‘s directors and executives will be treated differently concerning the financial benefits accrued to them, and could construe conflicts of interests based on their positions, should the merger agreement be approved by general shareholders.

The merger agreement allows for each outstanding stock option held by a Maytag executive or director to become vested and exercisable at the $14 stock acquisition proposal.

“However,” according to the definitive proxy statement, “because each stock option held by a Maytag director or current or former executive officer contains an exercise price that exceeds the merger consideration, no value will be obtainable in respect of these stock options.”

At the time of the merger, all unvested restricted stock units and performance units held by employees and directors will vest in full and be settled based on the buyout price of $14 per share. Chief Executive Officer Hake will be entitled to $632,616. The aggregate amount that will be payable to all directors and current and former executives in the settlement of these stock units is estimated at $1,117,143.

In addition, each current and former executive officer participates in incentive programs and profit plans. At the time of the merger, each participant in those plans will receive accelerated vesting and settlement of the awards which will award Hake $3,075,000. The aggregate amount that will be payable to all current and former executive officers is approximately $6.6 million.

The agreement also allows for several “change of control” agreements that grants severance benefits including multi-year lump sum base salary payments, annual bonuses, long-term incentive awards, pension benefits, outplacement services and credit toward retiree health benefits. Should each of the current Maytag executives be eligible for “change of control” benefits, the amount payable under the terms of the agreement would exceed $26.5 million. Hake, alone, would be eligible for more than $9.3 million with most of the rest of the executives accruing more than $2 million.

Litigation

Maytag and its directors have been named as defendants in several substantially similar lawsuits, including one filed in Jasper County District Court just a week after the merger announcement was made in May, claiming the $14 per share offer to be paid stockholders is unfair. In the suit filed locally by attorneys Doug Gross, Harold Schneebeck and Richard Updegraff of the Des Moines law firm of Brown, Winick, Graves, Gross, Baskerville and Schoenebaum on behalf of the Sheetmetal Workers Local 218 Pension Fund, the petition claims the Maytag directors “artificially depressed” the stock price.

“Defendants had artificially depressed the price of the company’s shares with numerous multi-million dollar restructuring charges,” the suit alleges. “The company’s restructuring, or so-called ‘One Company’ restructuring plan, was established in order to enable the company to flourish in future quarters. In effect, by selling the company just after depressing the company’s shares through restructuring charges, the defendants are taking the shareholders’ monies (which defendants had taken and purportedly used for improving the company for future quarters) and selling not just the company but a company and its future. And worse, the defendants are doing so when the shares are artificially depressed, just as the company is just emerging from the ‘recovery room.’

“Defendants knew that by selling the company cheaply and agreeing to a termination fee, they could ensure that the buyer would not balk at the cost of funding the massive payments they will seek in connection with the ‘change of control’ payments they negotiated for themselves. In addition, defendants structured the acquisition so that the company would be sold before the shares could reflect the true value of the company, i.e., before the restructuring/One Company plan bore fruit.”

The lawsuit filed in Newton seeks class action status and asks the court to enjoin the defendants from moving forward with the acquisition. Maytag, in its proxy filing, believes the lawsuits are without merit.

Stocks and pensions

The proxy outlines procedures on how Maytag shareholders will be paid for their stocks upon consummation of the merger agreement. For those who own Maytag stock through 401(k) programs, individuals will be paid $14 for each share held and the funds will remain in the investment accounts. For Maytag employees involved in the employee stock purchase plan, workers will receive $14 for each share owned. The purchase plan was suspended July 1, with no new contributions deducted from employees’ pay. Those holding stock options will see those options automatically vest and become exercisable. However, at $14 per share, all options are “under water,” meaning the option price is above the proposed merger amount. For those holding restricted stock units, the shares will vest and will be settled at $14. Personal owners of stock will receive $14 per share.

Maytag said the status of the pension fund has not changed. At the end of 2004, $1.2 billion was invested in the fund, which is insured by the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. While it is legally possible to change or terminate the pension plan, any benefits which have been accrued are protected. If the plan was terminated, employees would still be eligible to receive the benefits earned up to that time.

Merger talks effort to break union

July 20, 2005
Merger talks effort to break union
 
Date July 20, 2005
Section(s) Opinion
Brief  
 
To the Editor:

I had been waiting for something interesting to write about. I believe I’ve finally found it.

By now, we’ve all heard about the news, it seems that good ol’ Whirlpool has joined the ever-growing list of organizations interested in acquiring Maytag Corp.

I know what you’re thinking, because I thought about it too. Things like: “Ralph used to work there,” or “what about anti-trust law,” etc. Important stuff for sure, but yet fairly pale compared to what I thought about later.

Any group interested in taking us (Maytag) over would be stuck with a debt of $969 million, which would surely exceed $1 billion with interest, yet each group still considers Maytag a feasible acquisition. This forces me to consider the performance of our corporate leadership over the last few years.

Near as I can tell, everything corporate has announced, planned, predicted, updated, manipulated, eliminated or even contemplated … literally everything they’ve attempted has met with disaster.

This seems to boil down to one of two possible conclusions.

1. Ralph Hake and his board of directors each wasted about $150,000 on their education … or

2. They ran this corporation into the ground on purpose just to break organized labor’s back …

By the way, those guys are getting richer while we are losing our careers, so guess which one it is.

Rich Harris

Newton

Haier drops bid to buy Maytag

July 20, 2005
Haier drops bid to buy Maytag
 
Date July 20, 2005
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Associated Press

Chinese appliance manufacturer Haier America and two investment partners are ending their bid to buy rival Maytag Corp.

Maytag said in a statement late Tuesday it was informed by Haier America, a subsidiary of Haier Group Ltd., that the company and partners Bain Capital and Blackstone Group would no longer pursue their bid.

Maytag did not release the Haier letter and company spokesman John Daggett declined further comment Tuesday.

Haier’s pullout came two days after appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. jumped into the bidding for Maytag with a $1.37 billion offer.

News of Haier’s decision to remove itself from bidding for Maytag pushed the stock price down. At 10 a.m. today, Maytag‘s stock was down $1.52 on the Haier news to $16.01 or 8.67 percent. Volume was 2.7 million shares.

Newton-based Maytag disclosed last month it was considering a preliminary $1.28 billion bid from Haier America and the investment firms that valued Maytag at $16 per share. Haier Group is China’s largest appliance manufacturer, producing refrigerators, laundry machines, dishwashers and small appliances.

Haier, which is based in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao, was one of the first Chinese companies to expand internationally, setting up factories in Algeria, Mexico, Iran and Southeast Asia before it opened its first U.S. factory, in Camden, S.C. in 2000.

The unsolicited offer from Michigan-based Whirlpool, the nation’s largest appliance maker, values Maytag stock at $17 per share. Its offer includes payments in cash and stock.

Officials at Maytag have said the company would consider the Whirlpool bid but noted that directors have not changed their recommendation that shareholders approve the proposal from Triton.

In a letter dated Sunday, Whirlpool said it is “ready to immediately review the due diligence information you provided to Triton and are currently providing to the Haier America consortium. We and our advisors are also ready to immediately negotiate a definitive merger agreement with you. We anticipate that our agreement will be based substantially on your existing merger agreement with Triton.”

Whirlpool said that due to conditions in the Triton agreement, it must submit its offer for Maytag no later than Aug. 9. “We are prepared to meet this deadline. However, as each day forward is critically important to our doing so, your board must take action to permit us to begin our due diligence immediately.”

In May, Maytag‘s board accepted a $14-a-share proposal from an investment group, Triton Acquisition Holding Co., led by Ripplewood Holdings LLC, RHJ International and GS Capital Partners.

Maytag will begin mailing definitive proxy statements to shareholders today in advance of a scheduled vote Aug. 19 on the Triton takeover offer. The meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the Sodexo DMACC Newton Conference Center auditorium in Newton.

Maytag is recommending that shareholders approve the Ripplewood bid, noting the merger cannot go forward without approval of a majority vote of the owners of the 79 million outstanding shares.

The proxy statement gives detailed information on the merger plan, including details on the formation of the deal, total costs anticipated in consummating the takeover and shareholder payout information.

If the deal is completed, Maytag would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Triton Acquisition Holding. The company estimates the total amount necessary to complete the merger at approximately $1.65 billion, which includes shareholder payout, repayment or refinancing of existing debt and payment of fees and expenses. All details of the merger are expected to be completed before Dec. 15.

Not cut out to be a capitalist

July 19, 2005
Not cut out to be a capitalist
 
Date July 19, 2005
Section(s) Opinion
Brief  
 
To the Editor:

The capitalists globalized our economy. Dealing with China is part of it. UNOCAL is relatively small and has some holdings in China. China would be buying back some of itself.

Capitalists have no allegiance except to immediate financial gratification. Follow the money to wherever it leads.

The “stock” show have contests on who chooses the best moneymaker stocks. The consistent winner is one who chooses Asian oil stocks. He puts his money where his mouth is. He owns what he chooses. If you wish to buy part of the Republican dream of capitalism, his e-mail address is “capitalistpig.com.” (No kidding.)

If I’m going to be a good capitalist, what could be better than buying Maytag stock at $10, hoping someone will buy Maytag to shut down the Newton plant. The stock goes up and joy of joys, money is in my pocket. Immediate financial gratification. Profits for me, my income taxes go up, thus helping to balance the federal budget. I bow down to the gods of the Republican capitalists, all is right in the world of “Reaganomics.”

Today, we are headed for a grander scale of Reaganomics tax revenue increases than in the 1980s. When a CEO receives more than a $100 million retirement gift on top of salary, bonuses and incentives, his tax bill must be humongous.

The little guy, the big shot, all paying taxes. The Republican talking heads tell us this is all roses.

I’m just not cut out to be a good capitalist. I wonder every day how big a factory could be built for $70 million and how many could be employed permanently. No immediate financial gratification, but positive long-term, far-reaching prosperity.

Stuart Allspach

Baxter

Whirlpool makes offer for Maytag

July 18, 2005
Whirlpool makes offer for Maytag
 
Date July 18, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Whirlpool Corp. has offered to buy rival appliance maker Maytag Corp. in a $2.3 billion deal that tops an earlier offer that Maytag had accepted from an investment group.

Whirlpool said late Sunday that its offer of $17 per share for Newton-based Maytag represents a 21 percent premium over the offer from Triton Acquisition Holding Co. Whirlpool would also assume Maytag‘s debt of $969 million.

Maytag‘s shares rose $1.56 or nearly 10 percent to $17,01 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange today with more than 2 million shares traded.

Whirlpool planned a conference call late this morning to discuss the proposal with financial analysts. (Updates on the call will appear on the Newton Daily News’ Web site at http://www.newtondailynews.com)

Maytag confirmed today that it received an unsolicited bid from Whirlpool and that its board of directors would consider the proposal. However, Maytag said its board of directors continue to support of the existing Ripplewood-led transaction.

On May 19, Maytag agreed to be acquired by Triton, an entity organized by the New York investment company Ripplewood Holdings LLC, for $14 a share, in a deal valued at about $1.13 billion.

But on June 20, Maytag said it was considering a preliminary $1.28 billion bid from Bain Capital, Blackstone Group and China’s Haier America that valued Maytag at $16 per share.

Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool is proposing to acquire all 79 million outstanding shares of Maytag stock by providing shareholders $17 a share, of which at least 50 percent would be paid in cash and the balance in shares of Whirlpool common stock, which now trades around $70.

In a letter to Maytag CEO Ralph Hake dated Sunday, Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig said the Whirlpool offer is “superior” to Triton’s.

“It will provide the immediate opportunity for your shareholders to realize substantially greater value for their shares — a 21 percent premium over the Triton price,” Fettig wrote in the letter to Hake, who at one time was the chief financial officer for Whirlpool. “Moreover, your shareholders will have the opportunity to realize greater long-term value through the truly unique attributes of a Whirlpool-Maytag combination.”

Fettig said the competitive nature of the global appliance industry makes a merger of the companies beneficial to both.

“As you know, we operate in a highly competitive marketplace where trade customers and consumers have a large and growing choice of brands, products and suppliers, including a growing number of foreign appliance companies,”Fettig said. “Together, we can achieve substantial efficiencies that will deliver cost savings, increased innovation and better asset utilization. With these efficiencies, and Whirlpool’s track record of — and commitment to — investing in innovation, quality and customer service, our combined company will be well positioned to offer great value to consumers and to trade customers. And as part of Whirlpool, we can ensure that Maytag remains a trusted brand for years to come.”

Maytag filed its definitive proxy statement concerning the merger with Triton late Friday with plans to send it to shareholders of record on Wednesday. The proxy outlines the steps involved in the Ripplewood Holdings-led acquisition proposal and information concerning the merger agreement. A shareholder vote on the matter is set for Aug. 19.

Whirlpool said it is “ready to immediately review the due diligence information” Maytag has provided to Triton and is currently providing to the Haier America consortium, which includes Bain Capital and Blackstone Capital. The company said it hoped to have a firm offer for Maytag by Aug. 9.

Whirlpool has significant production operations in low-cost countries, such as Mexico, Poland and China, producing about 35 percent of its total product. More than 90 percent of Maytag production is in the United States.

In a letter to its workers today, Whirlpool CEO Fettig said the combination of the two company’s would be beneficial to both.

“The North American appliance industry is one of the most open and competitively dynamic markets in the world,” Fettig wrote. “The possible integration of the two businesses will help us meet the requirements of demanding trade customers and sophisticated consumers who have an ever increasing number of choices of brands and suppliers.

Maytag Corporation has a proud heritage. Its flagship brand is highly regarded. Given our best cost platform, by combining these resources — along with the efficiencies achieved by combining the Whirlpool and Maytag infrastructure — we believe we can benefit consumers, trade customers and our own mutual long-term success.”

During a conference call with analysts late this morning, Fettig would not expound about questions concerning Maytag‘s recent struggles but noted two areas in particular where a merger could be beneficial, efficiency and innovation.

“Clearly on the infrastructure standpoint there will be opportunities to integrate duplicate activities,” he said.

Some analysts believe anti-trust issues may arise out of the deal, although Maytag‘s sliding market share — about 15 percent after holding a 20 percent share a few years ago — may mitigate that concern. Whirlpool, the largest U.S. appliance manufacturer of such brands as KitchenAid and Roper, has about 35 percent market share in the U.S.

The Haier group is interested in acquiring a U.S. brand name to gain entry into the North American market. It has yet to make a definitive bid for Maytag.

Should Maytag end its agreement with Ripplewood, it would be required to pay the group a $40 million break-up fee.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.