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Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank signal they’re talking

NEW YORK — Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. are moving a bit closer to a possible combination, announcing they are exchanging certain confidential information with each other.

Men’s Wearhouse Inc. said Monday that it has also received a draft merger agreement from Jos. A. Bank.

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The news comes four days after Jos. A. Bank, based in Hampstead, Md., rejected the latest acquisition bid of $1.78 billion from Men’s Wearhouse. The offer of $63.50 per share was increased from Men’s Wearhouse’s previous bid of $57.50 per share. The Houston company has said it may raise the bid to $65 per share, if some conditions are met.

While Jos. A. Bank nixed the $63.50 per share offer, it did say Thursday that it was willing to meet with Men’s Wearhouse to discuss the higher bid.

Men’s Wearhouse’s $63.50 per share offer is set to expire March 12, unless extended.

Walter Loeb, a New York-based retail consultant, said that the latest maneuver is much more than gamesmanship between the two chains.

‘‘I think they’re getting closer to a deal,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s pressure from shareholders from both sides.’’

The back-and-forth between Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank started in October, when Jos. A. Bank offered to buy its larger rival.

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Loeb believes that a deal could be reached as early as this week.

The back-and-forth between Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank started in October, when Jos. A. Bank offered to buy its larger rival for $2.3 billion. Men’s Wearhouse scoffed at that offer, and turned the tables, offering to buy its rival for $1.54 billion. But after Jos. A. Bank turned down that overture, Men’s Wearhouse increased its bid to $1.6 billion, and then again to $1.78 billion.

The latest exchange between Jos. A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse comes nearly three weeks after Jos. A. Bank announced that it was planning to buy the parent company of Eddie Bauer in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $825 million. But at the time, Jos. A. Bank left the door open, saying it may end the Eddie Bauer deal if it receives an acquisition offer that is superior.

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