Business & Finance

Whirlpool, the largest US maker of household appliances, again increased its bid to buy struggling rival Maytag - this time by $2 a share to $1.62 billion. The new offer is equally divided between cash and stock, in addition to which Whirlpool would assume $997 million in debt. Whirlpool also has promised a $120 million "reverse breakup fee" as a sign of confidence that the transaction would receive regulatory approval. The latest bid is 43 percent higher than the $1.13 billion, all-cash offer Maytag originally accepted in May from Triton Acquisition Holding Co. Maytag shareholders will vote their preference Aug. 19.

Suez SA, the world's second-largest water utility, scheduled a news conference in Paris Tuesday afternoon, amid expectations that it would announce a $13.3 billion buyout of the shares in Electrabel SA that it doesn't already own. Electrabel is the largest supplier of power to neighboring Belgium and is described by financial analysts as a "cash cow," since it accounts for almost 75 percent of Suez's annual revenue. Such a takeover would be consistent with the trend toward consolidation of western Europe's power industry, the analysts said. In recent months, Électricité de France, Centrica PLC of Britain, and Germany's E.On utilities all have acquired foreign energy companies to try to broaden their customer bases before that sector is opened up to full competition in 2007.

Quest Diagnostics, a leading drug-testing laboratory, will acquire LabOne Inc. for just under $1 billion, the companies said late Monday. The latter is a specialist in health screening and risk-assessment for life insurance underwriters. Quest is based in Lyndhurst, N.J.; LabOne in the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa, Kan.

Delphi Corp., the leading American supplier of auto parts, said Monday it is considering filing for bankruptcy protection after posting $338 million in second-quarter losses. Robert Miller, the chairman of the Troy, Mich., company, said Delphi continues to experience growth and profitability in its international operations, but needs to address its US pension and payroll costs immediately. To implement a restructuring plan, he said Delphi is looking for "modifications" from its major unions and financial support from General Motors, its biggest customer.

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