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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wary Germans Put Aside Investment Fears

BONN -- Detlef Mueller had never even considered owning a share in a company -- that is, not until Deutsche Telekom began invading his living room each night with alluring television advertisements.

Like millions of Germans who have always put their money in low-yield savings accounts, the 30-year-old thought the stock market was too treacherous for his young family's savings.

But Mueller, an electrical engineer from Cologne, has suddenly caught stock market fever.

He drained his savings to put up nearly 9,000 Deutsche marks ($6,000) for 300 of the new Telekom shares, and he expects to make a handsome profit quickly.

"I always thought it was too risky," Mueller said last week. "But all the ads got me curious. It looks like this is an easy way to make some money. I am still nervous about shares, though, and plan to take profits as soon as the price rises."

Deutsche Telekom succeeded beyond its wildest dreams in enticing millions of first-time investors like Mueller to crack open their piggy banks and place orders.

Only one in 16 Germans currently owns shares, giving the country one of the lowest shareholder levels of leading industrialized nations. Only about 5 percent of private assets in Germany are invested in shares compared with 17 percent in Britain, 21 percent in the United States and 35 percent in Sweden.

That may be changing, thanks largely to Telekom's 100-million mark advertising campaign. It has been inescapable for months on billboards, in newspapers and on prime-time television.

More than 3 million Germans signed up for Telekom's special shareholder information forum, and more than half are thought to have placed orders.

Karl-Heinz Drimmer, manager of a savings bank in Bonn, said hundreds of first-time shareholders flooded his branch office, some enduring hour-long waits to place their orders.

"We've had everything from the grannies to high government officials come in here," Drimmer said.

Compounding the delays was the length of time it took banks to explain and fill out orders for the neophyte shareholders and warn them, as required by law, of the risks.