Whirlpool and Middleby fight over Aga stoves

Whirlpool and Middleby fight over Aga stoves

American Whirlpool is preparing a take-over bid for the manufacturer of the British cast iron Aga stoves, which would mean American Middleby would not actually acquire the same company.

Last-minute effort

Aga Rangemaster's management agreed to a 129 million pound (175 million euro) acquisition from American industrial kitchen manufacturer Middleby, which already has the so-called American counterpart for the Aga stoves, called Viking. The only matter that still had to be resolved was that the shareholders had to approve the acquisition, a vote which would take place on 8 September.

 

With just days to go until that vote, American electronics manufacturer Whirlpool has now entered the fray. The company has asked to see the books in order to plan a bid, which will have to be higher than the 1.85 pounds per share Middleby offered. In a statement to the London stock exchange, the company is said to be surprised by Whirlpool's action, "in particular why it has waited until this late stage in the process to approach AGA”. It also points out that "there is no certainty Whirlpool will ultimately make any offer."

 

The revelation did help spike Leamington Spa-based Aga Rangemaster's shares, up to 2.08 pounds. That is double what it was worth not more than 6 months ago.

 

93 years of British tradition in financial distress

Founded 93 years ago, Aga is considered to what Rolls Royce is to cars and what Burberry is to fashion: a very traditional British brand that sells very expensive items for a minute target audience. Aga's cast iron stoves, easily weighing 400 kg and costing up to 14,000 euro, can be found in the kitchens of many a celebrity, like Madonna, Kate Winslet, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jeremy Clarkson and Prince Charles.

 

Despite a sizeable 17 % operational profit increase to 2.8 million pounds (3.8 million euro), Aga Rangemaster still posted a 3.9 million pounds (5.3 million euro) net loss. All of this is because it still has to deal with huge retirement costs from the past: according to its accounting numbers, it still has to deal with 47 million pounds (64 million euro) in this regard.

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