A new breed of deal-makers
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A new breed of deal-makers

Mannesmann has pitched into some speedy, expensive takeovers, but is still a takeover target. That's a symptom of the rush for change affecting nearly all German companies. For years investors complained that German managers were too slow and cautious; now many have become dangerously impulsive. By Laura Covill.

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It is October 19, a glorious autumn day at Kloster Andechs, a Benedictine monastery overlooking the Ammersee lake in southern Bavaria. Father Anselm's guests today are not pilgrims but German corporate executives who have travelled the 20 miles from Munich by chauffeured Mercedes to reflect on the meaning of business life.

They gather in the baroque library, and the saintly Henning Schulte-Noelle, chief executive of Allianz, speaks first: "We're relaxed about it," he says, referring to the current mania for corporate mergers and acquisitions in Germany. He points out that half of all mergers end in failure. "Pastor" Martin Kohlhaussen follows with his well-worn argument that Commerzbank is large enough to survive alone against its global competitors. The bank is not seeking a merger partner. His thought for the day: "You can buy size, but profits have to be earned."

God's in his heaven, all's right with corporate Germany. Everyone retires for a good lunch.

But one prominent chief executive is not present. It is the busiest week yet for Klaus Esser, the empire-building chief executive of Mannesmann.

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