Europe's Sell Off To End All Sell Offs

Huge stakes are riding on the fate of Deutsche Telekom's November offering

It was supposed to be a sure thing. In February, 1987, with the Tokyo stock market skyrocketing, the Japanese government sold 1.9 million shares of Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. at $10,720 a pop. Armies of brokers went door to door, pitching the stock to housewives and retirees as a must-have piece of Japan Inc. By October, 1988, they had sold 35% of the company. But two years later, the Tokyo stock market plunged, exposing NTT for what it was: an overpriced colossus far less profitable than the global competition. Its market value has since halved, and many small investors lost their life savings.

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