updated 6/15/2005 8:29:08 AM ET 2005-06-15T12:29:08

Maytag Corp. stock inched up in stock trading Tuesday after Chinese appliance maker Haier Group indicated it may bid for the company.

In a statement Wednesday, Haier said it was company policy not to comment on potential deals with other companies until agreements are signed. “That’s in the best interest of both sides,” said the statement from Haier headquarters in Qingdao, a city in eastern China.

As reported, Maytag’s board has accepted a lone $14-a-share buyout offer from an investor group led by Ripplewood Holdings LLC. But several major institutional Maytag stakeholders have indicated discontent with that offer and vowed to vote against it.

Shares of the Newton, Iowa-based company rose 10 cents, or 0.7 percent, to close Tuesday at $15.34 on the New York Stock Exchange, indicating that investors expect a higher offer.

The stock rose 5.2 percent Monday on renewed speculation about possible rival bids. Prospective names included Blackstone Group LP, a New York private investment firm.

While some analysts have predicted that a foreign buyer might emerge, Haier hasn’t been high on their lists, even though it is China’s largest appliance maker.

In the United States, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is a major retailer for Haier refrigerators, portable dishwashers and air conditioners.

Apparently seeking to address uncertainty within Maytag about its future, Chief Executive Ralph Hake sent a letter to employees, saying that “regardless of the result of the Ripplewood merger down the road” they should “continue to concentrate on delivering our sales and earnings results.”

The letter, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday, promised employees no change in the aggregate value of benefits through 2005. But as for what lies ahead, “we simply do not have enough information at this time to have answers to your most basic questions,” Hake said.

He noted that many of those answers would appear in a preliminary proxy statement “in the next several weeks.”

Just who might want to acquire Maytag, and why, has been a hot topic on Wall Street.

“We continue to view the company’s competitive position as challenging, particularly in light of the weak state of MYG’s retail relationships,” Longbow Research appliance-industry analyst MacGregor wrote in a recent report.

MacGregor rates Maytag shares “neutral.”

MacGregor doesn’t own Maytag stock and his firm has no apparent conflicts of interest with the company.

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