Middleby faces AGA saga as Whirlpool crashes party

AGA Rangemaster

Catering equipment giant Middleby’s proposed acquisition of iconic British cooker manufacturer AGA Rangemaster has taken an unexpected twist after white goods maker Whirlpool yesterday declared its interest in buying the business.

Middleby announced last month that it was acquiring AGA after offering £129m for the Leamington Spa-based outfit, which turns over £260m a year.

It said the move would strengthen its global reach and enhance its position in the premium segment for residential kitchen equipment. Two years ago it spent $380m (£240m) acquiring Viking Range as part of a strategy to target that sector.

But AGA revealed yesterday that it has received an approach from Whirlpool regarding a possible cash offer, which has suddenly cast the Middleby takeover in doubt.

AGA told the Stock Exchange that there was no certainty that an offer from Whirlpool would be made, but confirmed that it has opened its books up to the firm.

Given the conditionality of the Whirlpool offer, AGA’s board said they believe it is in the “best interests” of shareholders to ensure the Middleby transaction continues to be executed on the current timetable to avoid any delay to completion should a firm offer from Whirlpool not be forthcoming.

The court meeting and AGA general meeting to consider the Middleby transaction is due to take place on Tuesday 8 September and the company said they were continuing to recommend the offer to shareholders.

In a statement, Whirlpool confirmed that it has made an approach regarding a possible offer for AGA. “A further announcement will be made in due course if appropriate, but there can be no certainty that a formal offer will be made or as to the terms of any offer,” it said.

AGA Rangemaster’s primary production facilities are in the UK although it also has operations in Michigan, USA. The group employs around 2,500 people worldwide. Rangemaster sales grew by 9% in the UK and by 6% overall last year.

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