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FTC NEARS AOLTW APPROVAL

Regulators Cite Pressing Need To Complete Holiday Shopping As Impetus Behind Decision
The Federal Trade Commission may be close to approving America Online's takeover of Time Warner.

According to the Monday (12/11) edition of the Washington Post, a majority of the five-member FTC is now prepared to approve the deal. The paper cited unidentified sources familiar with the matter. On Saturday (12/9), The New York Times reported that only one commissioner was leaning toward approval. A formal vote on the $183 billion merger was expected Thursday (12/14).

Some opponents of the deal—which would create a vast media and Internet company—have meetings scheduled with FTC commissioners this week in hopes of persuading them to block the deal in court.

According to the story in the Post, commissioners Thomas Leary, Orson Swindle (a former Reagan administration official) and FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky were expected to approve the deal. Former Treasury Department official Mozelle Thompson has been the most outspoken in his concerns about the merger. And the Post was less clear where Sheila Anthony stood.

After months of intensive negotiations with the FTC, AOL and TW's recent open access deals with EarthLink and Juno, the number two and three Internet service providers behind AOL, may be enough to convince the commissioners of the combined company's willingness to open its cable systems. European regulators have already given their blessing to the deal, which was first announced almost a year ago.

If the deal receives the FTC's approval, it must still be reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission. FCC commissioners expressed optimism on Friday that they could move quickly.

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