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Time Warner mulls flogging AOL US dial-up biz (again)

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The boss of media omnicorp Time Warner said yesterday he is considering selling off the AOL dial-up business Stateside.

It's not the first time the idea has been floated, and chief exec Richard Parsons told the Goldman Communacopia* conference the firm would be taking an especially hard look at it over the next 12 to 18 months, Reuters reports.

Many Wall Street types reckon Time Warner's flagging stock would be worth more if it was broken up into more manageable chunks.

The problem with the plan, as Time Warner well knows, is that these less-web-savvy consumers still provide a large proportion of traffic to AOL's front page. The old school portal is still the group's best foothold in the online advertising scramble.

When Carphone Warehouse bought AOL's UK broadband subscriber base it agreed to keep sending users to AOL.co.uk, but striking a similar bargain in the US, given its underdeveloped ADSL market, could be more difficult. Any buyer would need a plan to upsell the subscriber base to broadband at some point, making the value of an association with a dotcom relic questionable.

"It's much more complicated here than in Europe," Parsons lamented, but pleaded, "we would like to see if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which I believe it to be". Investors have called for Time Warner cable, the US TV and broadband division, to go it alone too.

AOL's other European ISP businesses have also been ditched in the last 18 months as part of a major restructuring that has seen a quickfire run of executive changes. ®

*Send all vomit to Goldman Sachs, 101 Giant Bank Street, New York, NY 10101.

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