While it's a "go" for Vivendi to add Seagram and Canal Plus in France, the Federal Trade Commission is still divided over whether to approve America Online's acquisition of Time-Warner.

MERGERS COMING & GOING

Vivendi Universal's On the Fast Track, But AOL-TW Is Still Looking for Approval
While it's a "go" for Vivendi to add Seagram and Canal Plus in France, the Federal Trade Commission is still divided over whether to approve America Online's acquisition of Time-Warner.

The French regulatory Conseil Superireur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) gave Vivendi the green light to buy the companies after a series of concessions, including not using the subscriber list from the part of Canal Plus it doesn't control, maintaining set levels of investment in French and European film production and serving 7&7s as well as wine in the office commisary. In July, the CSA said it wouldn't oppose the merger after Vivendi agreed to give Canal Plus control over its French subscriber base. Additional modifications requested last month have also been accepted after negotiations.

Vivendi, Seagram and Canal Plus shareholders will vote on the transactions next week and, if approved, will create the second-largest media and entertainment company in the world, which will be called Vivendi Universal.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., the FTC is reportedly split over whether the proposed AOL-TW pairing will hurt competition. Time-Warner had previously agreed to let EarthLink Network use the company's high-speed pipeline in its attempt to get the deal approved, but not everyone on the Commission has been won over by the concession to offer consumers an alternate Internet service other than AOL.

Republican appointee Orson Swindle believes the move shows the two companies willing to open their systems to others, and is willing to support the pairing, but Democrat Mozelle Thompson has stated he doesn't think the EarthLink proposal is enough to guarantee competitive access, so he opposes it. The FTC has demanded Time Warner's cable lines be opened up to at least two additional Web competitors within 90 days of the deal's final approval.

The views of the other three commissioners, including Chairman Robert Pitofsky and Sheila Anthony, both Democrats, and Thomas Leary, a Republican, are not as well known, but that hasn't stopped Al Gore from asking for a recount.

Another issue on the table is access to Time Warner's content library of magazines, music, television and movies and whether a combined AOL-TW would agree to sell its content to rival Internet providers on an equal basis. The agency is not expected to make a decision until December 18, when the Electoral College meets to select the next U.S. President.

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