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Mannesmann May Buy Brit Telecom

January 23, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ If Mannesmann AG, the German telecommunications company, is able to fend off a hostile bid by Vodafone AirTouch PLC, it plans to buy the British telecommunications group Energis, The Sunday Times reported.

The paper said the deal would be worth 12 billion British pounds, or $19.7 billion.

The Times said Mannesmann was believed to have expressed its interest to Energis management and its major shareholder, National Grid Company.

But an Energis spokesman denied the company had been approached, saying ``This is news to us.″

In Germany, Mannesmann spokesman Manfred Soehnlein said he had no comment on the report.

Such a deal would add the Energis fixed-line British service to Mannesmann’s recently acquired Orange mobile phone operation.

Energis’ Planet OnLine Internet division is thought to be attractive to Mannesmann chairman Klaus Esser, and the takeover would fit with his stated aim of creating an integrated fixed and mobile European telecommunications network.

Vodafone chief executive Chris Gent sees the strength of a merged Vodafone-Mannesmann in mobile-only communications.

Mannesmann, meanwhile, has spurned Vodafone’s suggested offer of 49 percent control in a combined company. Mannesmann has rejected the British company’s offer as inadequate.

There has been growing speculation that Mannesmann was close to a deal with French conglomerate Vivendi that could help it fend off Vodafone’s bid.

Vivendi, the world’s largest water company, would not comment on the talks, but analysts believed the two sides could be negotiating for Vivendi to sell Mannesmann part of its 44 percent stake in Cegetel, France’s No. 2 mobile phone operator.

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