A deal isn’t a deal until the money in the bank, as the saying goes. Still, it must come as an irritation to the bosses of the Middleby Corporation that their plan to buy up Britain’s Aga Rangemaster, already recommended by Aga’s board, could be put on the back-burner thanks to a potential new bid from US appliances giant Whirlpool.
Middleby, another American firm that makes industrial cooking equipment, announced plans to buy Aga for £129m in June, and Aga’s shareholders had been poised to give their approval at a meeting next Tuesday. With just a week to go, Whirlpool has tossed a grenade into the mix - announcing its intention to make an offer once it has had a look at the books.
Aga’s shareholders will be licking their lips at the sight of a potential bididng war, but its board is remaining unruffled for now. In a statement this morning it said it was in the best interest of shareholders that the ‘Middleby Transaction continues to be executed on the current timetable’ in case Whirlpool decides against making a firm offer.
Though Aga’s eponymous ovens were originally invented by Swedish physicist Gustaf Dalén, they began to be manufactured under licence in Britain in the 1930s and have since become something of a middle class icon.
The safety of Middleby’s offer must be tempting, but the Aga would look rather more at home among Whirlpool’s branded luxury consumer goods, which include KitchenAid and Maytag. That contrasts with Middleby’s range, which features a 35-foot conveyer belt fryer and a hot dog ‘launcher’ capable of feeding 1,800 sausages per minute into a packaging machine.
Whichever suitor talks Aga into bed, it means another British(ish) brand being sold off to a foreign buyer. Posh ovens might not be regarded as an important strategic asset like the country’s communications and energy businesses, but Aga’s transatlantic voyage will nonetheless be a cause for disappointment for yummy mummies across the land.