French firm buys AOL France for $365m

Time Warner has agreed to sell AOL France's Internet access business to Neuf Cegetel, a French telecommunications network operator, for about $365 million in cash, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said under the agreement, Neuf Cegetel will acquire AOL's Internet access business in France, including its 500,000 broadband customers. The French company will also acquire its ASME operation, which manages AOL France's customer service operations, the report said.

The Associated Press report said the sale is part of AOL's efforts to shed its access subscription business as it focuses on boosting advertising revenue from its free Web sites.

Earlier this week, Time Warner said it reached an all-cash deal to sell AOL Germany's Internet access business to Telecom Italia SpA for about $870 million. Time Warner has said it wants to shed AOL's UK access business as well.

Starting in 2007, AOL will provide the content and manage online advertising sales for all of Neuf Cegetel's Internet portals. AOL and Neuf Cegetel will share advertising and other revenue from the sites.

The French version of AOL will continue to operate. Together, the two companies' sites attract about 9 million unique visitors per month, according to Time Warner, the report said.

At the end of 2006, AOL customers will have access to Neuf Cegetel services such as DSL TV and Wi-Fi phone service. The French company said it will focus on converting AOL dial-up subscribers to broadband, the report said.