No Overseas Investment Until AOL TW Puts Its House in Order

12 September 2002

AOL Time Warner, the globe’s largest media conglomerate, is unlikely to pursue further overseas investment until its online arm AOL is back on a firm footing.

Speaking this week to a conference in London, recently appointed AOL TW chief executive Richard Parsons said: “At the moment what we're focusing on is to fix and run well what we have.”

However, overseas is where the media mammoth plans to seek future expansion. “ When you look down the road at where the growth is going to come from, it’s going to be the international sector,” Parsons predicted. And demerger or decentralization of the unwieldy giant is emphatically not on the cards in the immediate future. “The short term priority is getting our house in order.”

The group is currently reassessing “everything both domestically and around the world to see if we're happy with our strategic portfolio. Where we’re not we will make changes.” Insiders say that assets in Latin America and Asia are to the fore of the review.

Nodding in the direction of the UK, whose Royal Television Society hosted the conference, Parsons picked up the current hot potato as to whether Britain's rules barring non-EU ownership of broadcast media should be lifted. Right now, he said, AOL TW did not need to own a UK broadcaster. But it could benefit and profit from such a move “under the right circumstances”.

Parsons welcomed Britain’s plans to increase consumer choice by opening up its television market to more competition. “The thrust of what your government is trying to do to encourage greater competition and encourage more voices and let the market place set the pace, the more your consumers will benefit from that.”

However, Parsons could not suppress the wheeler-dealer within: “At the current levels at which some of those [TV] assets trade I’m not sure you are going to have a stampede in the bidding process.”

Carlton and Granada, kindly take note.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff