Whirlpool Corp. said that it expects the U.S. housing downturn to extend into 2009 as many newly built homes sit waiting for buyers. "Right now, the best guess that you can have is it (housing slump) will go through 2009," Michael Todman, president for Whirlpool North America, told the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit in New York.
"At one point in time we thought we would see some recovery toward the end of the year," Todman said. "We don't think that now."
Still, Todman said business showed some life in May as U.S. government stimulus checks started reaching consumers. North America is Whirlpool's largest market, accounting for more than 60% of its sales. "People were spending, it appears, some of these tax rebate checks on product," Todman said.
As overall U.S. demand slumps, many international markets are growing. Todman said Whirlpool was seeing strength in Brazil, India, China, and some Eastern European markets.
To keep fueling that global growth, Todman said Whirlpool had started selling its upscale KitchenAid products in new areas such as Europe and Brazil, and was likely to introduce that higher-end brand in India.
Todman also said that Whirlpool's business had some stability because of growth now taking place in the Maytag and Amana brands acquired in 2006. Whirlpool has been designing new products to differentiate those brands since the purchase.
Todman also said the home builder market was another area of growth for Whirlpool, but declined to comment when asked if his company was considering bidding for General Electric Co's appliance unit. "We certainly think we have great opportunity to expand in the builder market," Todman said. (Reuters)
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