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EC blesses AOL Time-Warner wedding

But US government still has to say 'yes' too

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The European Commission has given the go-ahead to AOL and Time-Warner to proceed with their $135 billion merger, as expected.

The Commission's members today voted to approve the merger, though the two would-be partners will need to make a number of undertakings first.

AOL will indeed have to buy out German media giant Bertelsmann's 50 per cent stake in AOL Europe. The merged AOL/Time-Warner will have to promise not to discriminate unfairly against its rivals, be they in the Internet connectivity business or distributing content online.

That will prevent the merged company "from having access to Europe's leading source of music publishing rights thereby eliminating the risk of dominance in the emerging markets for online delivery of music over the Internet and software-based music players", the Commission's ruling said.

Today's decision leaves AOL and Time-Warner better placed to convince US anti-trust regulators that the merger should be allowed to proceed. The Federal Trade Commission must also approve the deal before it can go ahead. The FTC is likely to demand 'open access' pledges along the lines of those required by the EC. ®

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