A prospective buyer’s upped the ante for an Iowa-based maker of washers and dryers. Whirlpool Corporation has submitted a binding offer to buy Maytag for $20 a share, a $2 increase from Whirlpool’s tentative bid of $18 a share announced last month. Whirlpool says the total value of the deal is $2.6 BILLION in cash and stock. Maytag shareholders would be paid half in cash, half in Whirlpool stock. Whirlpool’s also agreeing to provide up to $15 million for retentio of Maytag employees, and they’re committed to paying a reverse-breakup fee of $120-Million if the transaction should fail to go through due to not getting regulatory approval. Whirlpool would also pay a $40 Million breakup fee that Maytag’s obligated to pay Triton if an agreement’s terminated to sell Maytag to Triton Corporation Acquisition Holdings, another prospective buyer led by New York-based Ripplewood Holdings. Whirlpool President and CEO Jeff Fettig says he thinks the merger would benefit both companies. Fettig says Maytag’s admitted its cost structure is “uncompetitive” and he thinks with time Whirlpool can improve things from the company’s procurement, technology and research-and-development, product development, manufacturing, and its purchasing supply chain: “The whole, what I call the product side of the equation.” Fettig’s remarks did not include the option of buying Maytag to shut it down, as some analysts have predicted, though he didn’t rule out some streamlining if the purchase goes through. He says there’ll be opportunities to “integrate duplicate activities.” Analysts say Maytag’s strong point is that unlike many companies including Whirlpool, all its products are made in the USA. Fettig says “equally compelling has been their performance in the marketplace.” Even in a difficult time when investment’s been scarce, he says Whirlpool could bring significant innovation to Maytag “to help it become more competitive and appealing in the marketplace.” Maytag shareholders are to vote August 19 on the Ripplewood offer of $14 a share.