Plans for a June initial public offering for Mannesmann’s engineering and automotive business (now called Atecs Mannesmann) may be scuppered by a late E9bn bid by Thyssen Krupp, another German engineer.

Vodafone AirTouch, the UK telecommunications company which took over Mannesmann AG earlier this year, had previously agreed to continue with Mannesmann’s plans to float the engineering side as it only wanted Mannesmann’s telecoms business. The engineering and automotive side has already been given its own identity with the name Atecs Mannesmann – Atecs standing for ‘advanced technologies’.

Under the original flotation plan, Atecs Mannesmann, of which Mannesmann Dematic is a part, would be an independent publicly-quoted engineering company, leaving Mannesmann AG as a pure telecoms company owned by Vodafone. However, a quick sale to Thyssen Krupp may prove more attractive than a stock market flotation.

A flotation under its current management probably would have ensured stability for the companies within Atecs. A trade sale makes this less assured.

Atecs Mannesmann had 1999 sales of E12.3bn ($12bn) and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and goodwill amortisation (EBITDA) of around E1.1bn. It aims to double this level of earnings by 2004.