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Justice Department Approves Whirlpool-Maytag Merger

3/30/2006 08:40:00 AM Eastern

Washington — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has given the green light to Whirlpool’s planned merger with Maytag.

The announcement, which came late yesterday afternoon, clears the way for the $1.8 billion deal, which is expected to close on Monday.

The decision also ends speculation — sparked by a longer-than-expected DOJ investigation — that the agency would challenge the move, which will give the combined entity a greater than 70 percent share of the U.S. laundry market and about half of the dishwasher business.

Indeed, it is that concentration of production that prompted the DOJ to extend its investigation last month. Ultimately, however, the agency’s antitrust division determined that “large appliance dealers have alternatives available to help them counter any attempted exercise of market power by an appliance manufacturer.” The unit specifically cited U.S. market newcomer LG as a major white-goods counterweight, along with GE, Electrolux, Samsung, Fisher & Paykel and Bosch-Siemens. It also noted that two-thirds of all U.S. appliance sales are concentrated among Sears, Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Best Buy.

Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool’s chairman and CEO, welcomed the news. “We are pleased with the Department of Justice’s decision and look forward to closing the transaction, and begin the integration of our businesses,” he said in a statement. “The combination of Whirlpool and Maytag will create substantial benefits for consumers, trade customers and shareholders, through continued development of innovative products, improved quality and service, and cost efficiencies.”

Added Maytag chairman/CEO Ralph Hake: “This transaction will enhance the competitiveness of the Maytag brands with new innovation and greater global reach to a broader base of consumers through Whirlpool’s established sales and manufacturing capabilities.”