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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 19:54 GMT
Mannesmann: a culture shock

mannesmann protest Mannesmann employees made their views known


BBC Business Correspondent Patrick Bartlett reports on German reaction to one of the country's most prestigious companies agreeing to the biggest takeover in corporate history.

After an acrimonious three-month takeover battle, Vodafone has sealed a $180bn merger with its German rival, Mannesmann.

Mobile merger battle
After the board's decision, Mannesmann's chairman Klaus Esser remained defiant, insisting that shareholders had been swayed by short term financial gain.

But this merger was resisted until the last by Mannesmann, which is seen in Germany as the victim of an aggressive Anglo/American predator.


patrick bartlett Patrick Bartlett: Many believe the deal has changed German business culture
Never before had a hostile takeover by a foreign company succeeded in Germany and though the final deal was agreed, few Germans see it as anything other than a victory for Vodafone.

At a news conference, Mannesmann's Klaus Esser, who'll be non executive vice chairman of the merged company, insisted he had won big concessions from Vodafone.

He claimed that 90% of shareholders believed that Mannesmann had better long term prospects as an independent company but they've been swayed by the instant profit offered by the deal.

Mannesmann's shares have doubled in value since the bid was launched in November.

Culture shock

Trade unions who demonstrated against the bid then, now appear reconciled to the deal though concerns remain about job losses at Mannesmann's Duesseldorf headquarters.

Many commentators believe the takeover battle has left Germany's business culture irreversibly changed.

Vodafone's success in winning one of Germany's most venerable concerns, is expected to trigger a wave of foreign interest in German companies.

Ordinary Germans are coming to terms with the reality that in the global economy, German firms who take over foreign rivals can themselves be swallowed up.

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