Esser fights for hearts of investors

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KLAUS ESSER, the chief executive of Mannesmann, conceded yesterday that it is facing a major task to persuade shareholders to reject Vodafone AirTouch's hostile pounds 80bn bid.

He was speaking in Frankfurt as Mannesmann opened the second leg of a roadshow designed to convince shareholders there is greater merit in the company remaining independent. Mr Esser said he was confident Mannesmann would be backed by key German shareholders, but he added: "There is a significant number ... undecided and watching for the value argument." Mr Esser met analysts and fund managers in London this week and is set to arrive in the US today.

He said many Mannesmann shareholders would be forced to sell Vodafone shares if the all-paper bid succeeded because they did not have a mandate to hold stocks in companies which were non-German or outside the Eurostoxx index.