Whirlpool Starts Bid Contest for Ovenmaker Aga Rangemaster

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An employee fits a door to an AGA 3-Oven Classic range cooker at the company's plant in Telford, U.K.

An employee fits a door to an AGA 3-Oven Classic range cooker at the company's plant in Telford, U.K.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Whirlpool Corp. started a takeover contest for Aga Rangemaster Group Plc by challenging an agreed 129 million-pound ($199 million) bid for the British ovenmaker from fellow U.S. company Middleby Corp.

Aga shares rose as much as 12 percent after the U.S. appliances maker said it approached the U.K. company about a possible cash offer. Aga Rangemaster, best known for its heavy-duty cast iron stoves that cost about 2,000 pounds, accepted a bid from cooking-equipment maker Middleby in July. It said Tuesday that its recommendation of Middleby’s offer remains in place.

“The making of a firm offer by Whirlpool remains subject to a number of conditions and there is no certainty that any offer will be forthcoming or as to the terms of any offer,” Aga Rangemaster said.

The U.K. company is giving up its independence to escape a pension burden that has hampered its progress in recent years. The company’s funding deficit was 69 million pounds in its last financial year, about as much as its market value before Aga announced in June it had received an approach from Middleby.

Aga Rangemaster shares were up 12 percent at 205 pence at 8:22 a.m. in London, exceeding the value of Middleby’s 185 pence cash offer for the first time. That boosted the company’s market value to about 142 million pounds.

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