Time Warner has appointed investment bankers Citigroup to explore options for its AOL Europe internet arm.

The New York-headquartered media giant is said to be mulling possible partnerships or sales of parts of the business.

AOL Europe was launched in 1995 as a joint venture with Germany-based Bertelsmann but in 2002 the company exercised an option to sell its stake back to TW for $6.75 billion (€5.28bn; £3.61bn). The venture is considered to be worth only a fraction of that today.

The online business found life tough because of the near monopolies of incumbent national telephone companies, such as France Télécom and Deutsche Telekom.

AOL Europe had 5.9 million subscribers across the UK, Germany and France as of March 31, down 452,000 compared with the year-earlier quarter.

TW President Jeffrey Bewkes avers that those pressures prompted the review and adds: "As we evaluate the future of it, we look at whether the thing would be more profitable in another structure."

TW carried out a similar review of its AOL business in the US last year and ended up teaming with online search titan Google [WAMN: 19-Dec-05].

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