Google could team with Comcast to make $5bn bid for stake in AOL

NEW YORK - Google could join forces with US cable giant Comcast to buy a minority stake in America Online for as much as $5bn (£2.9bn), according to reports.

The negotiations centre on AOL's network of websites including the flagship as well as the AOL Instant Messenger service, The Wall Street Journal has reported this morning, citing sources close to the situation.

AOL's websites are the second-most visited in the US, behind Yahoo!. In September, US visitors to the network numbered 112m.

The strategy behind the bid is for Google and Comcast to target AOL's visitors to draw more consumers and advertising to their businesses.

Rival web company the Microsoft-owned MSN has also been reported to have had "advanced talks" with AOL's owner Time Warner about buying a stake in the company -- despite their rivalry for visitors and competition between their web browsers Netscape, owned by AOL, and Internet Explorer, owned by Microsoft.

However, the involvement of Google and Comcast in talks puts a spanner in the Microsoft works. According to The Wall Street Journal, the proposed structure of the Google/Comcast deal would see them forming a partnership that would own around 50% of AOL -- although it says Time Warner wants to maintain a controlling stake in the company.

Another possible scenario could see Google making a bid for a stake in AOL on its own.

The two companies currently work together, with Google providing AOL's search technology and AOL taking a slice of the advertising revenue generated for Google by its users.

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