Washington Mutual Inc. came riding in Thursday with a white-knight rescue bid of $6.6 billion for Great Western Financial Corp., handily beating H.F. Ahmanson & Co.'s earlier hostile offer.

The move, though much anticipated, was nevertheless a bold stroke by Kerry Killinger, chief executive officer of Seattle-based Washington Mutual, and could spark a protracted bidding war for Chatsworth, Calif.- based Great Western.

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