Men’s Wearhouse Inc. and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. reached an agreement to share confidential information, moving closer toward a potential merger of the menswear rivals after several failed attempts.

Under a March 1 accord, the two companies will work in good faith to evaluate a possible deal, according to a statement today. Men’s Wearhouse reiterated that it was prepared to raise its offer for Jos. A. Bank to $65 a share, from $63.50, if the discussions reveal that a higher price is warranted.

The agreement is the latest step in a takeover saga between the discount-suit retailers that has lasted about five months. Houston-based Men’s Wearhouse, a chain with more than 1,100 stores, has said that merging with Jos. A. Bank’s more than 600 stores would let the combined company cut costs and improve customer service.

Men’s Wearhouse fell 0.6 percent to $53.48 at 9:32 a.m. in New York and had added 5.3 percent this year through Feb. 28. Jos. A Bank, based in Hampstead, Maryland, rose 0.3 percent to $62.25. The shares had advanced 13 percent this year.

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

Eddie Bauer Bid

The takeover battle began in October when Jos. A. Bank made an offer for its larger rival. Men’s Wearhouse rejected the bid and countered with offers for Jos. A. Bank, including a proposal of $57.50 a share, which were turned down. Jos. A. Bank last month agreed to buy Eddie Bauer in a deal that may create a company too big for Men’s Wearhouse to acquire.

Men’s Wearhouse’s current bid expires on March 12 unless an offer is extended. Jos. A. Bank has been told by five of its largest shareholders to start talking to its rival about a sale, people with knowledge of the matter said in January.

Eminence Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that owns shares in both companies, supported the latest bid. Eminence Chief Executive Officer Ricky Sandler said last month that the offer “clearly represents a superior alternative” for shareholders over the Eddie Bauer deal.

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