Whirlpool Makes Global Moves

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Whirlpool is making a pair of strategic acquisitions designed to bolster its business in Latin America and Central Europe.

Last month the company announced plans to buy out Vitro S.A.'s 51 percent stake in the partners' Mexican majap joint venture, Vitromatic S.A. de C.V., for $150 million in cash plus the assumption of the latter's $220 million debt load.

The move will give Whirlpool 100 percent ownership of the company, which is the second largest white good manufacturer in Mexico with $600 million in annual sales and a 34-percent market share. Vitromatic also serves as Whirlpool's exclusive Mexican distributor.

Whirlpool expects the operation to become a "strategic extension" of its North American business, allowing it to directly serve Mexico's growing domestic market and expand export opportunities in Central and Latin America.

The deal is expected to close during the second quarter.

Concurrently, Whirlpool has acquired Polar S.A., a leading Polish majap maker, from the bankrupt Moulinex-Brandt Group for $24 million in cash and $19 million in assumed debt. Whirlpool says the buyout will expand its manufacturing and sales presence in the fast growing Central European market.

Closer to home, the company said it will close its cooking product factory in Quebec in 2004 and will transfer the production to its plants in Mississippi and Oklahoma in order to reduce excess capacity.

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