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Time Warner boss calls AOL stake sale 'rumor'

Time Warner Inc.’s chief executive said on Thursday that news of a possible sale of a stake in its America Online (AOL) unit to Google Inc. and Comcast Corp. was “market rumor.”
/ Source: Reuters

Time Warner Inc.’s chief executive said on Thursday that news of a possible sale of a stake in its America Online (AOL) unit to Google Inc. and Comcast Corp. was “market rumor.”

Richard Parsons, on a visit to Hong Kong, also said there were no plans for a tie-up with Microsoft’s search-engine technology.

Two sources told Reuters that web search engine Google Inc. and cable company Comcast Corp. were in talks to buy a stake in AOL, in a deal reportedly worth up to $5 billion.

“It’s market rumors, and I can’t curb market rumors,” Parsons said at a luncheon on Thursday, declining further comment.

He said Time Warner had no plans for an alliance with Microsoft. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

The two companies were reported to be in talks on combining AOL’s content with Microsoft’s MSN technology, according to an Oct. 7 report in the Wall Street Journal.

The two services would be complementary, but there are no talks ongoing between the companies, Parsons said.

Time Warner and Microsoft discussed an alliance earlier this year, but negotiations broke off over a range of issues including technical obstacles and questions about control.

Time Warner is interested in expanding operations in mainland China and India, Parsons said, with India’s market more inviting.

“India, I think, offers more current potential for us as it has a stronger rule of law culture,” he said.

The obstacles in India are largely technical due to a lack of infrastructure, but there are fewer regulatory and cultural hurdles to overcome than in China, he said.

“I think gradually, gradually, they’ll open up in their way,” he said, referring to the Chinese market.