Mannesmann to float Internet business

German telco moves to ward off E146.6bn hostile bid from Vodafone with the Internet touch

Mannesmann, the German telecommunications group being targeted for a hostile takeover by Vodafone AirTouch (quote: VOD), said Friday it will float its Internet business to open up greater growth prospects than would be possible under the ownership of its UK-based predator.

The announcement came as Mannesmann launched its official defence document, charging that Vodafone's bid is inadequate and inappropriate. Mannesmann argues that on its own it has a potential value of more than E350 (about £204), well above the value of Vodafone's E277-per-share all-paper bid at the close of trading Friday.

Analysts said the defence document did not cover any new ground, but said an Internet float could raise a large amount of money from enthusiastic financial markets.

Esser said the company is seriously considering a partial initial public offering of its Internet operations. Published reports said the company could offer about 20 percent to the public.

Mannesmann has 2.6 million Internet customers, in a field where Vodafone has not met with much customer enthusiasm. Mannesmann says only AOL and Deutsche Telekom have larger Internet operations among European service providers. Vodafone recently launched a consumer "portal" for retrieving information and carrying out transactions via mobile telephones.

Mannesmann's defence document appeared as Mannesmann is reportedly continuing to hold talks with France's Vivendi that could result in a Mannesmann purchase of Vivendi's share of Cegetel, France Telecom's largest competitor.

Esser encouraged shareholders to reject Vodafone's offer and allow Mannesmann to become Europe's largest telecommunications company all on its own. "Do nothing," he told a press conference in Dusseldorf. "Do what you've always done. Keep your Mannesmann shares. Don't go in for the offer. You don't have to get involved in any paper work. Throw it in the bin."

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