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Whirlpool buys big stake in Italy's Indesit

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Whirlpool will pay more than $1 billion for a controlling stake in Indesit, the appliance maker's counterpart in Italy.

The deal announced Friday will put the U.S. company in possession of shares representing 66.8 percent of Indesit's voting stock. Whirlpool, which also owns Maytag, KitchenAid and other brands, will pay $15.06 per Indesit share.

"We believe this will ideally position us for sustainable growth in the highly competitive and increasingly global home appliance market in Europe," Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff Fettig said.

Whirlpool has been working on strengthening its presence overseas. Last year it agreed to acquire a majority stake in Chinese appliance maker Hefei Rongshida Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. for about $552 million.

The Benton Harbor manufacturer will be buying a 42.7 percent interest in Indesit Co. from Fineldo, an Italian engineering company, and a 17.6 percent stake from the Merloni family, which founded the company.

Whirlpool said that it plans to finance the deal with available cash and debt financing.

The stock purchase agreements with Fineldo and the Merloni family are expected to close by year's end.

Shares of Whirlpool Corp. closed at $139.21 Thursday, down 11 percent for the year after hitting an all-time high in January.

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