"We are afraid that the social standards we are used to here will be dismantled," one of the demonstrators said. Vodafone's takeover bid has terrified workers and management alike, driving them into each other's arms. Any talk of planned layoffs before the flotation of Mannesmann's heavy industrial subsidiaries has been shelved.
As Mannesmann's supervisory board went through the motions of discussing the Vodafone bid before throwing it out yesterday, the whole of Germany rallied to its company in distress.
The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, usually an admirer of all things Anglo-Saxon, told Le Monde, a French newspaper, that he preferred Franco-German company fusions to British acquisitions. "I am not against the participation of foreign firms in German enterprises, but I am against some of their methods," he said. "Hostile takeovers destroy company culture."
Wolfgang Clement, the Social Democrat Prime Minister ofNorth Rhine-Westphalia, where Mannesmann is based, said: "I appeal to all participants [to] not allow themselves to be infected with megalomania."
Bild Zeitung, Germany's leading tabloid, displayed a picture of a boxing glove on its front page yesterday. "The British come with a knockout bid." read the headline. "Will greed triumph?" At stake, according to the newspaper, are "Germany's industrial tradition and 130,000 jobs". Thepaper conceded that greed would "probably" come out on top in the end.