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AOL Europe rubbishes senior staffer's IPO claims

AOL Europe not to float in Paris - but AOL France may well do

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AOL Europe has claimed the comments of one of its own executives that its French operation is to float on the Paris Bourse are "simply false".

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, AOL France chief executive Stephane Treppoz said the company would be listed on the French stock exchange next year. He also said French utilities company Vivendi would take a directstake in the newly floated operation. Right now, Vivendi controls AOL France's two key corporate shareholders, broadcaster Canal Plus and telecoms company Cegetel.

But Treppoz's comments were quickly denied by AOL Europe, the AOL US/Bertelsmann joint venture that owns majority stakes in all of the online service's European subsidiaries. "Any comments suggesting that AOL Europe will go public are simply false and can be attributed to market rumors. AOL Europe does not comment on market rumors," said a statement. "The shareholders of AOL Europe have made no decisions whatsoever about whether AOL Europe will be floated on any stock exchange in the future."

Of course, Treppoz was probably talking about AOL France, not AOL Europe. Certainly, AOL Europe may not float, but AOL France could well do. AOL Europe owns 45 per cent of AOL France; Cegetel and Canal Plus together own the remaining 55 per cent. And since Vivendi owns those two, it effectively has a majority stake in the French subsidiary and could force an IPO through. Given what Treppoz said, it seems very likely indeed that that's the way Vivendi is thinking. ®

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