Google 'could bid for AOL stake'

Internet search giant Google is said to be in talks with media group Time Warner about a stake in its Internet service provider, AOL. According to a string of news agency and newspaper reports, the California based search firm could share AOL with Time Warner and US cable firm Comcast. Such a deal could put Google's search tools together with Time Warner's TV and film content in a portal. It could also address criticism from investors of Time Warner's strategy. Rivals Time Warner has recently come under fire from billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn, who says its management is failing to serve shareholders. Part of the group's response has been to stress AOL's move away from its traditional - and loss-making - dial-up Internet service, and towards a free-to-use content business paid for by advertising. The plan could be boosted by Google's success in attracting online adverts, as well as the huge reach of its search and other tools, combined with delivery to cable customers of both Comcast and Time Warner - the two biggest US cable firms. The talks are at an early stage, Reuters said, but one possible model for a deal - which could be worth about $5bn - is to form a three-way joint venture to house AOL's content offering, with Time Warner retaining a controlling interest. Google and Comcast are not the only suitors, with software giant Microsoft also discussing potential tie-ups between AOL and its own content service, MSN.

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