Google Shares Hit All-Time High on AOL Stake Report

19 December 2005

According to the Wall Street Journal, the seemingly unstoppable Google is poised to take a five percent stake in Time Warner's seemingly stalled America Online.

Google's Nasdaq-quoted stock soared by over 7% to an all-time high of $435.20 late Friday, while TW shares rose a modest 16 cents to $18 on the New York Stock Exchange. Neither party was willing to comment on the WSJ report.

Revealed the newspaper: "Google entered into exclusive negotiations with AOL late Thursday. A $1 billion (€832.5m; £564.5m) deal was being completed late Friday and [is] expected be approved by Time Warner's board on Tuesday."

Although lips were firmly zipped, a Google spokesman ventured: "AOL is a valued partner. We look forward to continuing to work with them."

Things have moved fast. Last week, Microsoft appeared to be the frontrunner - but insiders say that Time Warner executives grew uneasy over the complexity of a contemplated joint venture with the software titan. A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment.

Insiders also say that with the hot breath of interventionist shareholder Carl Icahn singeing its neck, TW views a Google-AOL alliance as a safer bet. Icahn is campaigning to replace a majority of TW directors and has threatened to sue the board if it concludes a deal that impedes his efforts to realize the value of AOL.

On Friday Icahn delivered another broadside, opining that AOL would be better off run by someone other than Time Warner.

"As [TW chairman/ceo Richard] Parsons has put it, he's a guy from Queens. I'm a guy from Queens. We're two old guys from Queens. Neither of us understand the digital world. The only difference is that I understand that I don't understand it."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff