Spurned Vodafone to make new bid for Mannesmann; If rejected again, firm might go to stockholders of German company


LONDON -- Vodafone AirTouch PLC, the world's largest provider of wireless services, said yesterday that it will make a new bid for Mannesmann AG after Germany's biggest mobile phone company spurned a $116.3 billion proposal.

If rejected again, the British company might go directly to shareholders.

Vodafone will meet with its shareholders over the next two days to work out an offer, said Chief Executive Officer Chris Gent. Mannesmann rejected a proposed bid Sunday of 202.65 euros ($209.57) per share.

"We're prepared, if necessary, to proceed with an unsolicited bid," Gent said. Some analysts say Vodafone will have to go as high as 270 euros per share to succeed.

While no hostile takeover has ever succeeded in Germany, some analysts and investors said Vodafone may have little choice after Mannesmann said Sunday's approach put the companies' joint ventures in three European countries "in jeopardy."

Mannesmann noted differences in strategy and a low price in rebuffing the offer, making a compromise unlikely, analysts said. The Vodafone bid would be the second-biggest ever.

Vodafone would not comment on what swap ratio it would offer in a new bid, though Gent said a cash element was unlikely. Mannesmann's supervisory board is scheduled to meet Friday, and Vodafone expects to have a new offer ready for the directors to discuss, Gent said.

Mannesmann, a Dusseldorf-based company, said it would not comment until it receives a new offer from Vodafone and repeated that it is not looking for a "white knight" to help fend off a hostile bid. Rather, the company is counting on its growth potential.

In a related development, Bell Atlantic Corp. does not plan to bid for Mannesmann because the price is too high, said Bell Atlantic Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ivan Seidenberg.

Bell Atlantic, SBC Communications Inc., MCI WorldCom Inc. and British Telecommunications PLC have been seen as potential "white knight" suitors for Mannesmann.

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