Archive for January, 2006

Grace of wealth could be removed

January 31, 2006
Grace of wealth could be removed
 
Date January 31, 2006
Section(s) Opinion
Brief  
 
To the Editor:

If you want to toss out a big number, here’s one — 10 trillion. Yes, witha “t,” $10 trillion. According to a congressman who wants to eliminate corporate taxes, this is the amount of money sitting in off-shore banks. U.S. dollars are considered a stable currency. Ten trillion U.S. dollars. The human mind cannot sufficiently comprehend numbers so big.

Halliburton is among the corporations basing various businesses in the Caribbean to avoid taxation. All those unbid government contracts and no sense of loyalty or gratitude to give back any of it in the form of taxes. All of it outgoing, never to return to the U.S. and recirculate. Talk about no return of tax investment dollars. At least the poor returns tax money by spending it in their neighborhood grocery stores, etc.

How much love of money do you have to sit on all $10 trillion to keep from paying around $3 trillion, all the while crying about the need to cut corporate taxes to spur investment dollars. At any time, they could access $7 trillion by paying taxes. It truly hurts me to hear about President Bush talk about staying the course to keep this “great economy growing.” His bottom line is that the rich must keep more and more.

I would think there would be some kind of limit for even the most staunch capitalist who should say, “enough is enough.”

It may be worth the bribe of eliminating corporate taxes to get that $10 trillion back in the U.S. But there is no guarantee that the money would be re-invented in the United States. Capitalist lovers are taking their money overseas. Where will Whirlpool go with the remnants of Maytag? Mexico, perhaps?

All these years the average investor (middle-class income) was told to invest for the long run. Hold onto your stocks and you will be sure to see a good profit at retirement. Meanwhile, every so often you see “market down because of profit taking.” While you take the advice and not “play the market,” they’re taking out profits and now, pulling out altogether — ruining the stock profiles you have built up.

Don’t let the capitalists run you over with scare tactics, calling you a socialist. Our economy is God-given, not capitalist driven. Abuse it and God takes away his grace of wealth. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, looting by people called the poor was rampant. The Enron scandal — top to bottom abuses rage. I guess we deserve the future we are building to ourselves.

Stuart Allspach

Baxter

Lamberti blasts Boswell for opposition to Maytag merger

January 30, 2006
Lamberti blasts Boswell for opposition to Maytag merger with Whirlpool
 
Date January 30, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By JESSICA LOWE

NDN Staff Writer

State Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, R-Ankeny, made a stop in Newton on Friday to discuss “the reckless statement made by Congressman (Leonard) Boswell” regarding the Maytag merger with Whirlpool.

“The reason I’m here today is to talk about the future of the Maytag plant in Newton,” Lamberti said. “No one likes where we are at today … it’s time for us to look to the future.”

The attempts of Boswell and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to halt the merger of the two companies with a letter to the Justice Department Jan. 12 sparked Lamberti’s remarks.

“I’m very concerned about the workers. There are no assurances that Whirlpool gives a hoot about Newton. I hope to get them to move off center. I want them to make a commitment to Newton and the workers,” Boswell said in regard to filing the letter of opposition to the merger with the Justice Department.

Lamberti, who is vying for Boswell’s seat in U.S. Congress, said he was discouraged by his opponent’s attempt to stop the community of Newton from moving forward.

“I’m troubled by the attempts of Leonard Boswell to stop the merger of Maytag and Whirlpool. If they are successful at stopping the merger, what good can come of it? Closing down the plant? Selling to the Chinese?” he said.

Lamberti’s statements on the at the courthouse on Friday came only a week after a guest commentary Lamberti wrote appeared in the Jan. 20 edition of the Newton Daily News. “This action by Leonard Boswell is a shortsighted political ploy that could damage the future of the Maytag plant and the City of Newton. Now is not the time to play these Washington political games with the future of Maytag workers,” he wrote.

“My interest is to do what is in the best interest of the workers,” Lamberti said on Friday.

Maytag, Whirlpool lobby for merger approval

January 27, 2006
Maytag, Whirlpool lobby for merger approval
 
Date January 27, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Maytag and Whirlpool have stepped up efforts to gain support on Capitol Hill for their planned $1.7 billion merger in the face of some criticism that the move would be anticompetitive.

The Financial Times of London reported on Thursday that Maytag and Whirlpool representatives have been meeting with staff members on the Senate antitrust committee to gain support for the merger that would create the world’s largest home appliance manufacturer.

Citing congressional staffers as the source, the newspaper said company representatives have been meeting with lawmakers and Justice Department officials in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline for review of the merger proposal.

At issue is whether new global competitors in the appliance industry have gained enough presence in the United States to merit a combined Maytag/Whirlpool organization that some say would capture up to 70 percent of the market for clothes washers. The companies argue that figure is elevated because Kenmore washers made by Whirlpool for Sears should not be included in the equation.

Two weeks ago, Democratic members of the Iowa congressional delegation wrote the Justice Department to oppose the deal. Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Leonard Boswell said the combined companies would create an anticompetitive atmosphere in the U.S. home appliance marketplace. At a minimum, the lawmakers said, Whirlpool should be required to divest Maytag‘s laundry operations as part of the deal.

Last week, the American Antitrust Institute, a non-profit research organization that works to promote competition in the marketplace, released a report stating a combination of the nation’s number one and number three appliance manufacturers would have damaging effects for consumers. The organization said a merger of the companies would damage the market for top-load washers — a “product for which there is no foreign competition” — and allow the companies to use its new-gained market power to pressure large retailers like Lowes, Sears and Best Buy.

Maytag, following the Iowa lawmakers’ letter of opposition, said opponents of the move were ignoring “fundamental competitive realities of the appliance industry.”

“The four largest U.S. retailers now control over 65 percent of U.S. appliance sales, and, as a result, exert tremendous pressure on appliance suppliers to be competitive on price and features,” Maytag said challenging the lawmakers’ letter to the Justice Department.

Maytag added the transaction will result in “significant efficiencies” that will make the combined firm better able to compete with growing foreign competition, like LG, Samsung, Haier and Bosch-Siemens, that are expanding rapidly at U.S. retail outlets.

Also on Thursday, Maytag announced that it will release fourth quarter and full year 2005 financial results on Friday, Feb. 3. Whirlpool will announce its earning results the previous day.

Let’s do what’s best for Maytag workers

January 20, 2006
Let’s do what’s best for Maytag workers
 
Date January 20, 2006
Section(s) Columnists
Brief  
 
By Sen. JEFF LAMBERTI

Guest Commentary

As the co-president of the Iowa Senate and a candidate for U.S. Congress, I get the opportunity to hear from a lot of Iowans about what is on their mind. One of the biggest concerns I hear is how we keep good paying jobs, like the jobs at the Maytag plant in Newton, here in Iowa.

This issue is fresh in all our minds because of the announcement last year that Maytag would be purchased by Whirlpool, putting in doubt the future of Maytag‘s manufacturing facility in Newton, along with the numerous hard-working Iowans employed there.

The current workers at the Newton plant are among the hardest working, highest skilled workers in the entire world. Despite that, economic pressures beyond the control of the workers and their families have changed the dynamics of the industry, leading to the decline of profitability of Maytag.

Needless to say, there is not a single person in Iowa who wanted to see Maytag purchased by another company. Maytag has not only been a staple in Newton but an icon for other Iowa businesses. Therefore, when Maytag began the process of looking for bidders for the company, it goes without saying that the best possible outcome would be for a purchaser who had the potential to maintain the plant in Newton.

There were others who considered purchasing Maytag. One bid came from a group of east coast investors with no experience in the appliance industry, and whose commitment to the Newton plant was unclear. Another company mentioned as a potential bidder was controlled by the Chinese government. In the end, Whirlpool, an American-based company with a distinguished history in the appliance industry, prevailed and purchased Maytag.

It is my hope that Whirlpool will see the potential and value of the Newton plant and will maintain production capabilities at the site. That is why I wrote to the leadership of Whirlpool last week, urging them to recognize what a great asset they have in the Maytag workers located in Newton. As an American-based company with a long tradition in the appliance industry, I believe that by reaching out to Whirlpool, we have an opportunity to save good paying jobs in Iowa.

My beliefs appear to be shared by many in the Newton area — many Maytag workers and retirees voted as shareholders to overwhelmingly support Whirlpool’s purchase. It appeared that the Newton community was coming together putting their hope and faith behind the belief that Whirlpool would see the value that the Newton factory and its workers could provide.

But then, Congressman Leonard Boswell, along with fellow Democrat Senator Tom Harkin, announced that they would ask the U.S. Department of Justice to block Maytag‘s sale to Whirlpool.

This action by Leonard Boswell is a shortsighted partisan political ploy that could damage the future of the Maytag plant and the City of Newton. Now is not the time to play these Washington political games with the future of Maytag workers.

It is impossible to tell what, if any, positive development could result from Congressman Boswell’s actions. It became quite clear last year that Maytag needed dynamic change and new direction — surviving as a stand-alone company was not an option.

I find it hard to believe that Congressman Boswell thinks having Maytag purchased by a company controlled by the Chinese government would be good for workers in Newton, let alone a group of east-coast investors with no experience in the appliance industry.

Bottom line: Leonard Boswell has lost touch with what is truly in the best interests of the Newton workers.

I hope Congressman Boswell will recognize that he has taken the wrong approach to saving these good paying jobs in Newton. I hope he will work with me so that we can illustrate to Whirlpool that this is not a political issue but an issue of keeping hard-working, high-skilled workers doing what they do best in Newton. Side by side, Republican and Democrat, we can offer a united front to Whirlpool showcasing the talents of these employees.

This year has been a heartbreaking time in Newton with the sale of Maytag and I share the concerns of the community. With this in mind, I am certain that the heart of this city will return, and I offer my sincere pledge that I will do whatever I can to help retain the Maytag plant and the jobs associated with it.

Jeff Lamberti is a State Senator from Ankeny, currently serving as the co-president of the Iowa Senate, and is a candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District

Maytag, Sears donate refrigerators to South

January 19, 2006
Maytag, Sears donate refrigerators to South
 
Date January 19, 2006
Section(s) Business
Brief  
 
Special to the Daily News

NEWTON — Maytag Corporation and Sears Holdings Corporation are together donating more than 700 new refrigerators worth nearly $800,000 to Hurricane Katrina victims in an effort to help those who were affected replace appliances damaged in the storm.

Maytag Corporation manufactured the Kenmore brand refrigerators. Sears has agreed to honor the full warranty on the side-by-side refrigerators.

“Sears is committed to helping America outfit and maintain their homes. Because it operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a high quality refrigerator is central to the day-to-day operation of a family’s kitchen,” said Tina Settecase, vice president and general manager of home appliances for Sears, Roebuck and Co. “We’re pleased to be part of this effort.”

The units are being donated through Gifts in Kind International, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that partners with businesses and nonprofit groups to provide products and services that help improve communities.

As many Louisiana residents struggle to rebuild their lives and homes, thousands of people have lived for months without the ability to keep food refrigerated and are faced with replacing some or all of their appliances.

In a recent Harris Interactive survey, 89 percent of the respondents across the U.S. said their refrigerator is one household appliance they couldn’t live without.

“With ongoing rebuilding efforts, there continues to be so many people in need of working appliances,” said Kat Ortego, director of community resources with the St. Landry-Evangeline United Way Hurricane Relief Center. “We’re thrilled to be distributing brand new refrigerators to them while there is still so much need.”

The 26-cubic-feet-capacity units worth more than $1,000 each are being shipped from Iowa to more than 10 United Way groups in Louisiana who will oversee distribution of the appliances.

“We are thrilled to be part of this effort to help Hurricane Katrina victims replace their much-needed appliances. We hope these new refrigerators will restore some normalcy to their lives,” said Annette Bravard, senior vice president of marketing, Maytag Corp. “We’re proud to partner with Gifts in Kind International and United Way to distribute the appliances and to work with Sears to provide the warranties on these new refrigerators.”

Group opposes Maytag merger

January 18, 2006
Group opposes Maytag merger
 
Date January 18, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

The American Antitrust Institute has issued a white paper opposing the proposed merger of Whirlpool and Maytag, the two largest domestic manufacturers of home appliances.

In announcing its opposition, the non-profit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., noted that one of the most affected of home appliances markets impacted by the merger is laundry. There, the AAI warns that the proposed combination would severely concentrate markets, significantly lessen competition and harm consumers through higher prices, reduced choice and stifled innovation.

“American consumers have benefited from the price and quality competition, choice and innovation generated by competition between these two laundry giants. A merged Whirlpool/Maytag amounts to a wet rag for millions of consumers,” said Albert Foer, AAI’s president.

The Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is currently reviewing the planned merger of the two U.S.-based appliance rivals. Whirlpool is offering to buy Maytag in a $21 a share cash and stock offer valued at $1.7 billion. In addition, Whirlpool is planning to assume nearly $1 billion in Maytag debt.

In a 17-page white paper based on independent review and publicly available information, the AAI’s Vice President and Senior Fellow, economist Diana Moss, noted that “while the effects of the merger on non-laundry home appliance markets are also worth looking into, the Institute has focused its efforts on the most adversely affected markets, including top-loading washers, front-loading washers and dryers.”

In a letter transmitting the paper to the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, the AAI urged that the merger be blocked, or at least be conditioned on significant divestitures of laundry assets.

Of particular concern, the white paper explains, is the market for top-loading washers — a unique “American” product for which there is no foreign competition. That market is dominated by Whirlpool and Maytag with only GE and Electrolux the remaining small rivals. No existing or prospective competition — domestic or foreign — the AAI argues, would discipline a post-merger price increase.

The paper suggests that the merged firm would have up to a 75 percent share of the top- and front-loading washer and dryer market. This translates into merger-induced increases in concentration that are significantly above and beyond the thresholds that would trigger serious competitive concerns in the Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission 1992 Horizontal Merger Guidelines.

“Merger-induced increases in concentration of this magnitude raise concerns about post-merger behavior by a dominant Whirlpool/Maytag acting alone, as well as anticompetitive coordination among the few remaining competitors in the industry,” Foer said.

AAI said it was concerned about the post-merger marketing activities of the combined companies.

“Whirlpool/Maytag could successfully use their enhanced market power –even against powerful buyers like Lowes, Sears and Best Buy to demand more advantageous access to retail floor space and other forms of marketing support, edging out or foreclosing competitors,” Moss said.

The market power wielded by the merged company also could raise barriers to entry or expansion by rivals, particularly foreign firms who still have small market shares, AAI said in its report.

“Any claimed efficiencies would have to be merger-related, well-documented and enormous to overcome these anticompetitive concerns,” Foer said, stating that the AAI is skeptical that there is a convincing story for how the antitrust authorities could ignore a deal so clearly anticompetitive.

Late last week, two members of the Iowa congressional delegation sent a letter to Justice opposing the merger. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, also cited anticompetitive concerns in their opposition to the move. In addition, the pair said the deal could hurt job opportunities at Maytag facilities in Newton, Amana and North Liberty.

Maytag issued a statement on Friday saying the lawmakers were not taking into account the “fundamental competitive realities of the appliance industry.” The company also disputed the market share information the lawmakers used in the letter of opposition to the merger.

According to its Web site, the American Antitrust Institute is an independent, non-profit research, education, and advocacy organization with a mission is to increase the role of competition, assure that competition works in the interests of consumers and challenge abuses of concentrated economic power in the American and world economy. In a footnote included in the paper, it noted “among the AAI’s more than 100 contributors is at least one organization whose clients include an opponent of the Whirlpool/Maytag merger.” Attempts to contact the organization to identify the client were unsuccessful prior to press time.

Maytag challenges lawmakers’ letter to Justice

January 16, 2006
Maytag challenges lawmakers’ letter to Justice
 
Date January 16, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Maytag Corp. expressed disappointment over a letter sent to the U.S. Justice Department by two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation asking that it block the planned sale of the Iowa-based manufacturer to rival Whirlpool.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Maytag said the two lawmakers, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, were ignoring “the fundamental realities of the appliance industry.”

On Thursday, Harkin and Boswell sent a letter to attorneys in the Justice Department saying they are “very troubled” by the merger plan and the unfair market advantage the combined companies would have within the North American appliance industry.

“Along with the uncertainty of the future of the Newton plant, this proposed buyout may be bad for consumers across Iowa and the country,” Boswell said in announcing delivery of the letter to federal regulators asking that the move be blocked. “The Justice Department needs to thoroughly and quickly examine all the issues.”

In its response to the lawmakers’ antitrust concerns, Maytag noted that the four largest U.S. retailers now control more than 65 percent of U.S. appliance sales and “exert tremendous pressure on appliance suppliers to be competitive on price and features.” The 112-year-old Newton-based company also said foreign competitors like LG, Samsung, Haier and Bosch-Siemens are expanding rapidly at these and other retail outlets.

Maytag said the planned merger, which is currently being reviewed by the Justice Department, would result in “significant efficiencies” that will make a combined company better able to compete with the growing foreign influx of appliance products, as well as its traditional U.S. rivals. The company also disputed marketshare figures cited by Harkin and Boswell in their opposition to the merger calling them “significantly overstated.”

While the lawmakers’ letter to the Justice Department focused on antitrust concerns, Boswell later said his intention was to get some sort of commitment out of Whirlpool that Maytag jobs would remain in Newton and other production and distribution facilities in Iowa.

“I’m very concerned about the workers,” Boswell said when contacted late Thursday. “There are no assurances Whirlpool gives a hoot about Newton.”

The two lawmakers said that if the Justice Department decides to approve the merger, it should at least require Whirlpool to divest itself of Maytag laundry operations to a buyer willing to continue operations.

Maytag reiterated its statement that its plants need to be cost competitive to continue to operate. For years it has said its Newton facility is its highest cost center and financing projections used in the merger agreement forecast future earnings based on closing the Newton plant. In addition, the North Canton, Ohio, Hoover plant is contemplated for closure. Maytag announced plans to close its Florence, S.C. plant late last year.

“Through their letter, it is obvious that Sen. Harkin and Rep. Boswell are concerned about job loss in Iowa,” Maytag said in its statement released on Friday. “However, it is important to note that whether or not a transaction occurs, the tough environment in which appliance industry manufacturers operate will continue to impact employment levels at facilities that are not cost competitive.”

Federal regulators are reviewing Whirlpool’s $21 a share, $1.7 billion offer to purchase Maytag. Maytag shareholders approved the sale at a special meeting in Newton just days before Christmas.

Maytag‘s top executives stand to make millions if the merger is completed as part of the termination clauses contained in their contracts. Maytag CEO Ralph Hake is expected to garner more than $20 million while numerous other executives will make more than $2 million each.

Stock analysts covering the industry say if the merger is not completed, Maytag would likely be unable to continue to operate as an independent company much longer.

Harkin, Boswell aim to block Whirlpool acquisition

January 13, 2006
Harkin, Boswell aim to block Whirlpool acquisition
 
Date January 13, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

The two Democratic members of the Iowa congressional delegation are asking that the Justice Department block Whirlpool Corp.’s planned purchase of Maytag.

In a letter sent Thursday to Thomas Barnett, assistant attorney general for antitrust within the Justice Department, Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Leonard Boswell said they were “very troubled” by the merger plan and the unfair market advantage the combined companies would have within the appliance industry.

“By letting Whirlpool’s acquisition move forward, the Justice Department would be encouraging unfair monopoly-like behavior in the appliance industry,” Harkin said in a release. “This acquisition is a loss for Iowans, consumers nationwide and Whirlpool’s competitors. It creates an unfair advantage, and I hope that it will be prevented.”

The Justice Department is in the process of reviewing Whirlpool’s $1.7 billion purchase offer for the 112-year-old Newton-based company. Whirlpool is the nation’s largest appliance manufacturer while Maytag is third. A combined company would make Whirlpool the world’s largest manufacturer, ahead of Sweden-based Electrolux.

Maytag shareholders agreed to the $21 per share cash and stock offer last month with federal regulatory approval the final hurdle for the merger to move forward. Both companies have said they do not plan for the acquisition to be finalized prior to Feb. 27, dependent upon clearance from the Justice Department.

While the letter sent to federal regulators cites concerns over the increased concentration within the appliance industry a combined company would hold, especially in the laundry category, Boswell said Thursday that his real concern is the possible loss of Maytag jobs in Newton.

“I’m very concerned about the workers,” Boswell said. “There are no assurances that Whirlpool gives a hoot about Newton.”

The purpose of the letter, Boswell said, is to try to get some sort of commitment out of Whirlpool to retain Iowa jobs.

“I hope to get them to move off center,” he said. “I want them to make a commitment to Newton and the workers. The pressure on the families is terrible.”

Whirlpool has not commented on what the future holds for local production jobs and the future of Maytag‘s corporate headquarters. Most appliance industry analysts speculate that while production operations in Newton might stay, the management operations in Newton would likely quickly close upon completion of the merger.

While the two Iowa lawmakers are recommending that the Justice Department prevent the acquisition, they also suggested an alternative where Whirlpool might be forced to divest Maytag‘s laundry operations.

“At the very least, the Department should require that Whirlpool divest the washer and dryer portions of Maytag to a viable purchaser who will have the financial capability and desire to continue to operate that business,” Boswell and Harkin wrote.

Last May, the Maytag board of directors approved the sale of the company to Ripplewood Holdings, a New York City-based investment firm. At the time, Ripplewood said it planned to continue local operations while it worked to put the company on firm financial footing.

Over the ensuing months, China-based Haier Group and Whirlpool entered the bidding for the troubled Newton company. Whirlpool increased its bid three times before the Maytag board of directors agreed to reject Ripplewood’s $14 a share bid in favor of the $21 offer from its rival in the appliance industry. As part of the new deal approved by the Maytag board in August, Whirlpool agreed to pay a $40 million break-up fee to Ripplewood. Ripplewood said it would continue to be interested in acquiring Maytag should the Whirlpool deal not be completed. The current agreement between Whirlpool and Maytag calls for Whirlpool to pay Maytag $120 million should the merger not be approved.

Boswell noted that he has been attempting for some time to see what might be done to help Maytag continue. Last May, even before any buyout offers were announced, Boswell arranged a meeting between Maytag CEO Ralph Hake and state and local government officials to discuss what actions might be taken to assist the troubled company.

State Sen. Jeff Lamberti, R-Ankeny, who is running for Boswell’s seat, released a letter Wednesday asking Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig to consider keeping jobs in Iowa.

“It would be my hope that your company will give strong consideration to retaining the production plant in Newton,” Lamberti’s letter said. “I believe that, by working together, we can meet the needs of your company and retain the jobs at the Newton plant. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the opportunities with you and offer my assistance.”

Industry analysts leave little hope that Maytag can continue as a viable entity.

“If this transaction fails, I believe Maytag will eventually end up in bankruptcy,” said David McGregor, an appliance industry analyst with Longbow Research of Ohio. “This letter has obvious political motives, but insisting on a divestiture of the entire washer and dryer business makes no sense when the concentration issue — if in fact one genuinely exists — is restricted to mid-line price points.

“If Maytag were a viable business capable of succeeding in an increasingly global industry, it would not be in its current predicament and the board would not have advised shareholders to sell at a 20-year low.”

Maytag announces new products with trade show exhibit

January 12, 2006
Maytag announces new products with trade show exhibit
 
Date January 12, 2006
Section(s) Business
Brief  
 
Special to Daily News

ORLANDO, Fla., — Maytag family of brands is introducing new products that combine the conveniences consumers want with the performance they demand during the 2006 International Builders’ Show, Jan. 11-14.

From the industry’s first refrigerator that combines consumers’ favorite features in one appliance to the world’s first “sport utility vacuum” to a slide-in range that makes kitchen island cooking and entertaining easy.

Maytag Ice2O French Door Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator

Today’s time-starved families demand a lot from their refrigerators: Easy access to ice and water for the kids to cool down after the big game; plenty of room to store fresh food, including large deli platters for entertaining and well-organized storage that puts everything from beverages to frozen meals within convenient reach.

There no longer is a need to compromise on any of these features with the new Maytag Ice2O French Door Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator. It combines features of a side-by-side and bottom-freezer refrigerator in one design, with the industry’s first external filtered ice and water dispenser on a French door and the largest-available fresh food capacity.

Until now, consumers had to choose either a side-by-side refrigerator with ice and water on the door or a bottom-freezer model that offered wider storage for fresh foods, but no external ice dispenser.

Hoover Introduces World’s First Sport Utility Vacuum For An All-Terrain Cleaning Experience

Hoover has introduced the world’s first sports utility vacuum designed to seamlessly conquer any surface for a high level of cleaning. The Hoover Z Bagless Upright Vacuum is a first-of-its-kind cleaner that comes fully loaded for an entirely new performance in the floor-care category.

Consumers’ cleaning needs have changed due to the growing trend of multiple floor surfaces within the home. Today’s home requires a single vacuum that can adjust to different carpet levels and transition from hard to delicate surfaces, both on and above the floor. The features of the Hoover Z Bagless Upright address major concerns voiced by vacuum users — the starting and stopping motion of the cleaning process as users switch between vacuums and modes, the need for efficient cleaning across multiple surfaces and heights and the maintenance associated with cleaning and replacing the main filter. The Hoover Z bagless upright focuses on all aspects of vacuuming from set up and start to use and storage, designed to provide a truly satisfying cleaning experience.

Features of the new vacuum include a DigiTouch control pad allowing for a seamless, automatic adjustment between surfaces and settings without the need to bend over the vacuum, and a patent-pending self-cleaning HEPA filter that automatically cleans itself every six seconds and never needs replacing to maintain a high level of cleaning. Its super-stretch hose extends 20 feet for convenient above-the-floor cleaning of curtains, drapes, molding and tops of stairs. The patent-pending collapsible Z-Fold design also offers the performance and convenience of an upright with the flexibility and stability of a canister in one vacuum.

Maytag also unveiled a new Jenn-Air slide-in range for a kitchen island.

Breaking News: Harkin, Boswell call on Justice to prevent merger

January 12, 2006
BREAKING NEWS: Harkin, Boswell Call on Justice Department to Prevent Whirlpool’s Acquisition of Maytag
 
Date January 12, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Special to Daily News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a letter to the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-IA) today called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to prevent Whirlpool’s acquisition of Maytag. Specifically, Harkin and Boswell said the acquisition would give Whirlpool an unfair market advantage, and further increase the economic concentration of the appliance industry.

“I met with Ralph Hake, Maytag‘s CEO, Maytag employees, along with local officials last May to discuss this buy out,” said Boswell. “Along with the uncertainty of the future of the Newton plant, this proposed buy out may be bad for consumers across Iowa and the country. The Justice Department needs to thoroughly and quickly examine all the issues

“By letting Whirlpool’s acquisition move forward, the Justice Department would be encouraging unfair monopoly-like behavior in the appliance industry,” said Harkin. “This acquisition is a loss for Iowans, consumers nationwide, and Whirlpool’s competitors. It creates an unfair advantage, and I hope that it will be prevented.”

Whirlpool is already the largest producer in the appliance industry, and the Maytag acquisition would give them almost 50 percent of the market share. If the acquisition is approved, Whirlpool, GE and Electrolux would together control 94 percent of the market.

Specifically, the acquisition would have a heavy impact on the laundry segment of the appliance industry because a Whirlpool-Maytag company would control 70 percent of the market. The letter requests that if the acquisition is approved, the Justice Department at least require that Whirlpool divest Maytag‘s washer and dryer department, a very concentrated portion of the industry.

A copy of the letter is below:

Honorable Thomas O. Barnett

Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust

Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Assistant Attorney General Barnett:

We are writing concerning the proposed acquisition of Maytag by Whirlpool. We are very troubled by this proposed arrangement which would greatly increase the market share of the combined company in certain areas. For that reason, we believe that the Department should prevent this acquisition.

According to the 1992 joint FTC-Justice guidelines for horizontal mergers, we believe it is clear that the appliance industry is indeed a highly concentrated one that would become drastically more concentrated, according to the Herfindahl-Hirshman Index, as a result of the Whirlpool acquisition. The increase in concentration is far beyond the level that the guidelines presume would likely create enhanced market power or facilitate its exercise.

Whirlpool is already the largest producer in the market. With the acquisition of Maytag, the combined company would hold almost 50 percent of the market share. This market concentration becomes even more extreme when the other two major appliance manufacturers, GE and Electrolux, are considered. If the Whirlpool acquisition is approved, the newly combined company, GE and Electrolux would together control about 90 percent of the market share.

And, this is an industry that has undergone a number of substantial mergers in recent years. Maytag acquired Magic Chef, Jenn-Air and Amana. Whirlpool acquired Kitchen-Aid, and Electrolux acquired Frigidaire. At some point, the concentration becomes to extreme for an orderly competitive market. We believe the pending acquisition of Maytag by Whirlpool goes beyond that barrier particularly in the area of washers and dryers.

What is most important is the specific market for particular goods that people actually buy. In the laundry segment, a Whirlpool — Maytag Company would control an excessively dominant 70 percent of the market. It is hard to see how that type of dominance does not place excessive market control into the hands of one company.

Even with the large share of this market that is sold at retail by large chain stores, this concentration is extreme. Clearly, a combined Whirlpool would be in a position to create real difficulties for competitors. The increase in concentration is far beyond the level that the guidelines presume would likely create enhanced market power or facilitate its exercise.

While we are seeing some movement of foreign firms into this area such as LG and Samsung, their market share is very small. The current domestic players are working to sharply lower costs including off-shoring jobs to lower costs. It is not at all clear that the foreign firms will be able to effectively compete and may in fact decide to maximize their efforts in their home markets.

We recommend that the Justice Department prevent the acquisition of Maytag by Whirlpool. If that is not done, at the very least the Department should require that Whirlpool divest the washer and dryer portions of Maytag to a viable purchaser who will have the financial capability and desire to continue to operate that business.

We appreciate your consideration of our concerns.

Sincerely,

Tom Harkin

Leonard Boswell