Euro Cell Phones: Mannesmann Calling

A bold bid will shake up the phone war

Watching him race through an extraordinary 1999, you'd think Klaus Esser, chairman of Germany's Mannesmann, would be feeling invincible. His cell-phone company has continued to thrash Deutsche Telekom in its home market, Europe's largest. And after DT's botched raid on Italia Telecom jumbled up alliances in Italy, Esser came away with a vastly strengthened portfolio. But despite these triumphs, Mannesmann, burdened by a humdrum brand name and scant investor recognition, has limped along in the marketplace. Mannesmann, competitors quipped, was German for "takeover bait."

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