Business & Finance

Maytag Corp. has agreed to be bought by a group of investors that would take the well-known appliance maker private, hoping to fix its myriad woes away from Wall Street's sharp scrutiny. The group, led by private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC, announced late last week it is offering $1.13 billion cash. Investors also will assume $975 million of company debt. The company, based in Newton, Iowa, produces appliances under the Maytag, Amana, Hoover, Jenn-Air, and Magic Chef brand names. In the past year Maytag's profits have slumped steeply, the company cut 1,100 salaried workers, closed a plant in Illinois, and may shutter two more domestic factories.

Coty Inc., one of the world's top perfume and cologne makers, said Friday it is buying Unilever's fragrance business for $800 million, bulking up its portfolio with Calvin Klein and other lines such as Vera Wang and Chloe. Privately held Coty, based in New York, is looking to rank among the five largest beauty products companies worldwide. Consumer products giant Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Lipton drinks, and Dove soap, has been whittling down brands as it battles rivals like Procter & Gamble Co. and Kraft Foods Inc.

The Air France-KLM board of directors has approved an order for five Boeing 777 cargo freighters, with options to buy three more. The orders, which Air France is still negotiating with The Boeing Co. of Chicago, would be worth about $1 billion at projected list prices, though airlines typically get steep discounts. Delivery of the new cargo planes is expected in late 2008.

In layoff news:

• Bankrupt Interstate Bakeries, the maker of Hostess Twinkies and Wonder Bread, said it will trim 1,400 jobs by closing a New Bedford, Mass., bakery and consolidating operations throughout the Northeast. This is the third plant closing and regional consolidation over the last two months for Interstate, which is based in Kansas City, Mo.

• Ross Products, which makes popular baby formulas Similac and Isomil and adult nutritional bars, plans to cut several hundred jobs, mostly at its Columbus, Ohio, laboratory, factory, and distribution center.

• Alcoa Inc., one of the world's top aluminum producers, said it will shut down an automotive casting plant in Hawesville, Ky., that employs 150 people.

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