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Time Warner gives up selling AOL

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Time Warner's board of directors are likely to decide today to spin-off AOL as an independent company.

The ailing dial-up internet service provider has been hawked around for sale for several years. Disney and Microsoft are among those who rejected a deal.

AOL famously began life as a dial-up ISP and covered doormats around the world with free CD subscriptions. It has moved into selling ad space to those subscribers and other web users. Although it has respectable revenues the company has never really defined itself in the way that its rivals have and its core revenue is falling.

It does have an online audience even if its not as big as rivals like Google, Yahoo or Microsoft. The company also bought social network Bebo for $850m early last year.

AOL lured Google's sales boss Tim Armstrong away in March which strengthened rumours of its standalone future.

Another issue to be resolved is sorting out Google's five per cent stake in the company. The search giant paid $1bn for the shares in 2003 but has now written down that investment to $274m.

The merger of Time Warner and AOL was a show-stopping $160bn deal in 2000. It was supposed to show us all the future of a truly integrated media giant with film and TV production alongside music and the web, but the company has never really demonstrated the benefits of that supposed integration. ®

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