Germany’s financial press is abuzz with reports that Schaeffler Group has made the first move in a campaign to gain control of Continental AG. It has reportedly secured control of at least 30% of Conti’s stock.

“A group of international banks bought Continental shares and provided Schaeffler with call options,” the Financial Times Deutschland cites a source as saying.

The acquisition of such a large stake so soon after an’initial ‘brief conversation’ between the two sides may be taken by Continental’s board as a clear sign of hostile intent.

The FTD said Schaeffler gained its share of around 30% through friendly banks led by RBS and Allianz unit Dresdner Bank.

Handelsblatt reported Schaeffler has amassed roughly 36% via options.

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Handelsblatt added that Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank were also involved in the deal on behalf of family-owned Schaeffler Group.

Handelsblatt also reported that Continental Chief Executive Manfred Wennemer and his finance chief Alan Hippe have mandated Goldman Sachs to devise a defence strategy against the unsolicited approach.

Continental is seen by analysts as an attractive takeover target because of its strong cashflow and a weak share price reflecting generally weak auto stocks and its high debt position following the VDO acquisition last year.

See also: GERMANY: Continental confirms talks with Schaeffler