Could AOL Be Next on Microsoft's List?

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With Microsoft walking away from the Yahoo deal, there’s been a lot of talk about what it’s next best option would be. Going after AOL is an obvious choice. It has the ad inventory (aka pageviews) Microsoft needs, has its own collection of growing online advertising businesses, and has a very willing seller in parent Time Warner. The Times of London is reporting that Microsoft and AOL are in “preliminary talks” about an acquisition. And AOL isn’t exactly hitting on all cylinders right now, so it could be a much cheaper, cleaner purchase.

Of course, Microsoft is still talking to everybody at this point, except maybe Yahoo. Whether it truly intends to set its sights on AOL is unclear because it needs to talk to AOL at the very least as a strategic ploy to try to thwart any possible deal between Yahoo and AOL (which has always been a possibility in the background). But at least Wall Street doesn’t seem to think that a deal is imminent. Yahoo’s shares are up 4 percent from yesterday to $25 a share right now, while Time Warner’s shares are pretty much flat at $16 after rising about 6 percent last week. Maybe Yahoo’s talks with Google are going better than Microsoft’s talks with AOL.

(Disclosure: As a former employee of Time Warner, I own some shares in the company)

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