Maytag Reports Loss, May Sell Hoover

Appliance maker Maytag Corp. (MYG), which has agreed to be acquired by larger rival Whirlpool Corp. (WHR), on Friday reported a larger fourth-quarter loss as charges and weakness in vacuums offset higher sales of washers and refrigerators.

Maytag said it would evaluate alternatives, including the possible sale for its underperforming Hoover vacuum unit and commercial businesses.

The Newton, Iowa, company, which also makes Amana and Jenn-Air appliances, said its loss widened to $75 million, or 93 cents a share, from $14 million, or 18 cents a share, a year earlier.

The 2005 quarter included charges to close a South Carolina plant and merger-related expenses, and the year-earlier period also was affected by restructuring charges and other costs.

But sales rose 6.6 percent to $1.24 billion. Higher sales of refrigerators and washers offset a 1 percent decline in sales of commercial products, which include Dixie-Narco vending machines and the Jade appliance line.

Maytag said floor care sales, which includes Hoover, were down significantly due to price erosion and continued consumer migration to other brands. Hoover has been a drag on Maytag's performance for more than a year.

The company agreed last year to its sale to Whirlpool for $21 a share in cash and stock, or nearly $1.7 billion. The deal requires approval from the U.S. Justice Department, and both companies said they expect the transaction to close as early as this quarter.