Business & Finance

Maytag Corp., the struggling appliance manufacturer, said it has a duty to shareholders to consider a new buyout offer despite agreeing last month to be acquired by a consortium led by Ripplewood Holdings. The new bid, although nonbinding so far, is notable because it comes from a Chinese company, Haier Trading Group, and two American private equity firms. Haier, Bain Capital Partners, and Blackstone Capital Partners offered $1.28 billion - or $2 more per share than Ripplewood's $1.13 billion terms. Haier, which makes refrigerators and air conditioners, has been seeking a more secure foothold in the $33 billion-a-year US appliance market, where its products are sold through retail chains such as Wal-Mart. Sources familiar with the situation told The Wall Street Journal that Haier easily could shift production back to China if it emerged as the buyer. Maytag, meanwhile, has found it difficult to keep up with General Electric, Whirl-pool, and other rivals with assembly plants in low-wage countries. It lost money last year for the first time since 1995. Ripplewood did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The world's third-largest movie theater chain, Loew's Cineplex Entertainment Corp., said it has agreed to be acquired by rival AMC Entertainment Inc. and a group of other investors. Terms were not disclosed, but the combined company will own or operate 450 theaters in 30 states and 12 other countries outside the US.

Electronic Data Systems, the IT services giant , has decided to sell rather than spin off its A.T. Kearney management consulting unit, The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported. The likely buyer, according to The Wall Street Journal's online edition, is the Monitor Group, a consulting firm based in McLean, Va. Kearney had $806 million in revenue last year, or more than three times as much as the Monitor Group. Kearney's headquarters are in Chicago.

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