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U.S. firm Middleby buys renowned British cooker maker Aga

LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - Aga Rangemaster, the maker of the range cooker which is often a feature of British country homes, is being sold to American kitchen equipment company Middleby for $201 million.

The two firms said the deal announced on Wednesday would enable Aga, with around $400 million in annual revenues and more than 2,500 employees, to benefit from Middleby's global distribution network, while also saving costs.

Aga Rangemaster, which traces its history back to 1939, has struggled in recent years and has been grappling with a large pension deficit. Its shares are down 65 percent since demand for its colourful Aga cookers, which can cost around 6,000 or 7,000 pounds ($9,350-10,900), took a hit from the financial downturn.

"The addition of AGA ... to our existing portfolio will further strengthen Middleby's global reach and enhance our position as a leader in the premium segment for residential kitchen equipment," said Middleby CEO Selim Bassoul.

Aga says it has manufacturing sites in Britain, Ireland, France, Romania and Michigan in the U.S.

The sale could add to concern among some Britons about the number of prominent companies that have been bought by foreign owners, including department store Harrods, toy brand Hamleys and chocolate maker Cadbury.

"What will become of the Aga if it goes American?" asked the Daily Telegraph newspaper recently.

Shares in the group were up 20 percent to 182.5 pence in mid afternoon trading, hovering close to the 185 pence takeover price. ($1 = 0.6406 pounds) (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Keith Weir)