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Time Warner to split AOL businesses

08 февраля 2008

Time Warner is separating AOL’s dial-up internet access service from its faster-growing online advertising business. The move could presage a sale or further realignment of both businesses in response to Microsoft’s $42.2bn offer for Yahoo.

Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner’s chief executive, called the split “one of our top priorities”, adding: “This should significantly increase AOL’s strategic options for each of these businesses.”

Mr Bewkes, announcing the company’s fourth-quarter earnings, also said he hoped to resolve the future of Time Warner Cable, its largest source of revenues, by mid-April, although his intentions remained unclear.

Time Warner has repeatedly expressed a desire to spin off or separate its 84 per cent stake in the business, but analysts and investors believed it could also take advantage of cable’s low valuations to consolidate its control.

In the fourth quarter, Time Warner’s earnings fell 41 per cent to $1bn compared with the same period a year ago, when it benefited from the sale of AOL’s European internet access business.

Excluding that gain and other one-off items, profits rose 17 per cent, led by strong performances from its cable and film studios.

The earnings call was Mr Bewkes’s first since taking over as chief executive and was closely followed by investors eager to divine his strategy as he tries to revive a media conglomerate whose shares have languished over the past five years.

Mr Bewkes announced an immediate $50m in cost cuts for the corporate office, and said further reductions would follow across the company. One target is New Line Cinema, Time Warner’s independent film label, which he suggested could be merged with the larger Warner Brothers studio.

Yet, investors’ top question remained the future of AOL, the troubled internet business. A Microsoft-Yahoo deal would remove two potential suitors for the business and could also leave it facing stiffer competition.

Another potential suitor, Barry Diller, chief executive of IAC, owner of the search engine Ask.com, said on Wednesday he had been interested in AOL in the past, but that a deal no longer made sense.

For the quarter, AOL’s revenues fell 32 per cent to $1.3bn.


Источник: Financial Times

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