AOL og Microsoft i nye forhandlinger

Microsoft og internett/portalgiganten AOL forhandler igjen - får å ta innersvingen på Google.

De fleste nordmenn er godt kjent med Microsofts nettjenester, men i USA er det andre aktører som dominerer både trafikken og annonsemarkedet. Yahoo og deretter Google er de store vinnerne.

Microsoft og den en gang så ledende internettleverandøren og portalen AOL omsatte bare for en milliard dollar hver i fjor, en tredjedel av hva Yahoo og Google klarte.

Nå bretter Bill Gates og Steve Ballmer opp lommeboken for å kjøpe seg større. Tidligere i september ble det kjent at Microsoft forhandlet med AOL om å kjøpe en stor post i selskapet.

Samtalene endte med brudd i september, men nå er de i gang igjen, melder Wall Street Journal som har snakket med flere kilder i de to selskapene.

Sammen vil de to selskapene skape en ny gigant som vil øke trusselen mot Goolge og deres raskt voksende annonseinntekter.

Ironien er ikke til å unngå – AOL og deres moderselskap Time Warner eide Netscape og var i en periode en av Microsofts bitreste rivaler. Microsoft skal ønske å kjøpe en større del av AOL, hevder ryktene.

Ifølge kildene ønsker Microsoft ikke bare en eierpost, men et samarbeid på flere konkrete punkter.

Det første skal være at AOL kaster ut Googles søkemotor og tar i bruk Microsofts etter hvert forbedrede alternativ. Det andre er muligheten for å slå sammen staben som selger annonser på AOL og Microsoft MSN til en felles salgsstyrke.

AOL har slitt med fallende inntekter i mange år fordi selskapet var verdens største internettleverandør da analoge modemer dominerte.

AOL og Microsofts samtaler er trolig mye drevet av at annonsemarkedet på Internett i fjor i USA løftet seg 21 prosent.

Time Warner Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have restarted discussions about forming an alliance of their Internet units, America Online and MSN, according to people familiar with the situation.

The two companies are focused on ways to combine AOL's Web content with Microsoft's search-engine technology, although other aspects of the talks are sketchy. It isn't clear, for instance, whether they are considering merging their Internet dial-up businesses, which generate lots of cash. As of June 30, AOL had 20.7 million dial-up customers while Microsoft had 2.7 million.

The two companies originally began discussions about some sort of Internet deal earlier this year. But the talks stalled in the late summer over a range of issues including technical obstacles and questions about control.

Many obstacles remain to a deal, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Still, the latest talks have restarted in hopes of reaching an agreement by the end of the year. "If you can't get it done in calendar year 2005, then it's probably not going to happen," says one person involved in the negotiations. The talks are being headed by Time Warner Executive Vice President Olaf Olafsson and Microsoft Senior Vice President Henry P. Vigil, according to people close to the situation.

Time Warner is having conversations with other companies interested in partnering with AOL, according to a person close to the situation. Spokesmen for Microsoft and Time Warner declined to comment.

With Internet stocks soaring on Wall Street, both Microsoft and Time Warner have been frustrated that their Internet operations haven't received the same high valuations as independent Web companies. Creating a joint venture, which could possibly go public, would be a way for both companies to benefit from the Internet valuations.

Combining AOL and MSN would also allow Microsoft to distribute its search engine to AOL's users -- supplanting AOL's current relationship with Microsoft's chief rival, Google Inc. Google currently sells search-engine advertisements for AOL, generating about $300 million in revenue for AOL last year. AOL would like to have direct relationships with those advertisers.

Time Warner Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Parsons said last month that Time Warner doesn't necessarily need to own 100% of AOL so much as retain control of and access to the business. "We want to retain a relationship with AOL that allows us to mine the value," he said.

Separately, AOL announced yesterday that it had agreed to acquire Weblogs Inc., which operates a network of 85 Internet "blogging" sites on topics including technology, food, travel and movies. A person familiar with the situation said the deal is valued at $25 million.

Til toppen