Things are heating up again for Maytag (NYSE:MYG). Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR) announced yesterday that it would increase its bid for the company from $18 to $20 per share.

Over the past week, Whirlpool gained access to due diligence information on Maytag, and it seems the material has made Whirlpool more comfortable with its potential purchase. Whirlpool has even pressured Maytag's board to make a decision within two days.

The board had already made a decision, though -- it agreed to a $14-per-share bid from Ripplewood Holdings, a private equity firm. It's unlikely that Ripplewood will up its bid, since it cannot provide Maytag any synergies.

Whirlpool's intense interest may stem from the potential for cutting costs. It's anyone's guess how much the company could save by acquiring Maytag, but judging from its increased bid, Whirlpool is definitely optimistic. (I recently covered some of the ways Whirlpool might benefit.)

One thing is clear: A successful purchase could make Whirlpool a global powerhouse in appliances. It currently has more than $13 billion in sales, compared with Maytag's $4.7 billion. A buyout deal would further expand Whirlpool's scale and its number of well-known brands.

Done deal? Not necessarily. The federal government will definitely raise antitrust concerns. According to a Wall Street Journal article yesterday, a Whirlpool-Maytag combination could result in a 50% market share, factoring in Whirlpool's deal to make Kenmore appliances for the Sears portion of Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD). Excluding those arrangements, the merged company would still command 30%, a more likely figure for the government's estimates. Unless the new company makes significant divestitures, it might face serious regulatory hurdles.

So far, Whirlpool is highly confident that the deal will pass regulatory muster. It's backing up that commitment with a breakup fee that could reach $175 million, depending on the circumstances.

For a complex deal like this, the regulatory approval process could last as long as a year -- but that's good news for Whirlpool. A thumbs-up from the government bolsters its position in the marketplace. If the deal gets blocked, it will have neutralized a direct competitor in the meantime. One way or another, it looks like Whirlpool will come out sparkling.

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Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares of companies mentioned in this article.