Officials of Time Warner (TW) confirmed plans late last week to proceed with the “complete legal and structural separation of AOL” in a process that, by year’s end, would leave the onetime online services giant as an independent, publicly-traded company. The announcement had been expected since TW first disclosed in an April 28 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission the possibility of spinning off AOL in part or in its entirety to shareholders. The plan would also unwind a union between TW and AOL that began in 2001 with the companies’ $164 billion merger and that ultimately created few, if any, operational synergies for the combined entity. In the years preceding the merger announcement, AOL’s stable of dial-up Internet customers dominated the U.S. online services market. In the years since the merger, however, the bursting of the “Internet bubble” during the early 2000s and the advent of broadband, among other factors, have shrunk AOL’s share of the ISP sector to just 3%, although the company has established a key niche in the Internet display advertising market. Through the plan, TW—the owner of a 95% stake in AOL—would first acquire Google’s 5% interest in the company, then spin off its complete AOL stake to TW shareholders. As TW CEO Jeffrey Bewkes described the spin off as “another critical step in the reshaping of [TW] that we started at the beginning of last year,” AOL CEO Tim Armstrong proclaimed that “becoming a standalone public company positions AOL to strengthen its core businesses, deliver new and innovative products and services and enhance our strategic options.”
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Time Warner to proceed with AOL spin-off
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