AOL considers sale of Bebo and ICQ

NEW YORK - AOL is reported to be in talks to sell its social networking site Bebo and instant messaging service ICQ to Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies, which earlier this year bought into Facebook.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Digital Sky Technologies is in the early stages of talks with the newly independent AOL, which is attempting to reinvent itself as a content firm.

First to go could be ICQ, reported to be attracting a price tag of between $200m to $300m. The WSJ says Bebo could also be part of the deal as it no longer fits with AOL's refocused business model being put in place by chief executive Tim Armstrong following his 100-day review of the business.

Earlier this year AOL was reported to be ready to offload Bebo less than a year after it was acquired for $850m (£417m). Bebo's star has faded since it was bought by AOL and it sits far behind rivals Facebook and MySpace.

Digital Sky Technologies, which paid $200m (£123m) for a 1.96% equity stake in Facebook in May, owns a number of online properties in Russia including the country's largest website Mail.ru.

ICQ has, like Bebo, seen its fortunes fade, but it is still very popular in certain parts of the world including Germany, where it has 12.6m unique users, and Russia where it has 8.4m uniques, according to comScore.

Talk of the sell-off follows AOL confirming last month that it plans to cut more than 2,500 jobs or a third of its workforce to achieve cost savings of around $300m.