Home & Office

AOL UK sale 'not threatened' by portal ambitions

Sources close to AOL insist that its desire to stay in the content business won't threaten the impending sale of its UK assets
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Reports have suggested that AOL is jeopardising the sale of its UK arm by insisting that its users will continue to be guided to the AOL content portal, but insiders have played down the claim.

According to a report in Tuesday's Guardian, AOL UK's strategy will deter bidders such as BSkyB and Orange from buying its subscriber base because those companies have their own ambitions as content providers.

Citibank has been conducting a strategic review of AOL UK since May. Only two weeks ago, BSkyB chief executive James Murdoch was quoted as saying his company would be "opportunistic" about buying AOL UK, around which he said there were still "a lot of question marks".

"If we think it makes sense at a certain price, we'll try to move forward at that price. Otherwise, we're very, very comfortable with going out and building this proposition for our customers and growing this customer base... really on our own back," said Murdoch.

However, sources close to the situation insist that AOL UK had always maintained it would look for "partnerships to improve the current business situation", and had long stated it was "in the market to be a long-term portal business", rather than seeking a quick sale.

Describing AOL as an "expert" in content provision, insiders suggested that reports that this might deter prospective buyers were little more than an attempt by certain bidders to "jockey for position".

Along with Sky and Orange, Carphone Warehouse is the other remaining bidder in the auction Citibank is conducting.

More news on AOL's strategy is due on Wednesday, when Time Warner/AOL will be announcing its annual results.

One part of that strategy will be an enhanced video portal, due to launch in the US on Friday, and which will probably eventually make its way to the UK.

Editorial standards