Business & Finance

Whirlpool Corp. was awaiting word on whether Maytag would accept an increased buyout offer. Whirlpool raised its bid Friday from $17 to $18 a share. Maytag has accepted a $14-a-share offer from Ripplewood Holdings LLC, rebuffing Whirlpool's first proposal. If the rivals do merge, they'll account for roughly half of all US sales of refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and ovens.

Buyout specialist Starwood Capital Group said it will pay $2.6 billion for control of Taittinger SA, a conglomerate that makes champagnes, and Société de Louvre, which owns the Baccarat brand of crystal and 14 luxury hotels and operates the second-largest budget hotel chain in Europe. Starwood is expected to resell the champagne business. Taittinger is based in Reims, France; Starwood in Greenwich, Conn.

The world's largest maker of gypsum drywall, BPB, rejected a $5.9 billion buyout offer from distribution giant Saint-Gobain SA of France, calling it "unwelcome." But the latter said it was "surprised by the negative reaction" and industry analysts speculated that it would return with a higher bid. Saint-Gobain is the No. 1 supplier of materials to the construction industry in Europe and a leading manufacturer of glass. BPB is based in Slough, England.

Rover, the automaker that collapsed in April, agreed Friday to be acquired by China's Nanjing Automobile Corp. for an undisclosed sum believed to be about $87 million. But while the deal appeared to bring closer the return to work of at least some of the 5,000 employees who lost their jobs at Rover's Longbridge assembly plant in England, it also seemed likely to trigger a legal fight between Nanjing and rival Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC), which was once seen as Rover's savior. The Daily Telegraph (London), citing a source close to SAIC, reported that the latter does not believe that the decision between its bid and Nanjing's was made fairly. "We put a higher offer on the table than they did," the source said. "We are not going to leave this lying."

Kimberly-Clark Corp. said it will cut about 6,000 jobs and close or sell 17 percent of its manufacturing plants worldwide by the end of 2008. The company, which makes Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers, did not indicate Friday which of 118 plants would be affected. The strategy is designed to emphasize core product lines and accelerate growth in developing overseas markets, such as Russia, China, India, Turkey, and Brazil.

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