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The stock is at $19.48, off more than 70% since AOL’s $106.2 billion deal to buy Time Warner, bringing it to a level that analysts said values the AOL Internet unit at almost zero.
AOL TIME WARNER
PROBLEMS PERSIST
Stock Continues to Drop as
Word of Spin-Off Emerges

AOL Time Warner shares continue to slide as analysts expect tomorrow’s Q1 earnings report to include one of the biggest quarterly losses ever.

The loss is primarily due to a $54 billion goodwill writedown on AOLTW’s assets, reflecting the decline of AOL’s assets since the company purchased Time Warner in January 2001. Other than that little $54 billion writedown, the company’s results are expected to be flat compared to 2001.

The stock is at $19.48 as of this report, off more than 70% since AOL’s $106.2 billion deal to buy Time Warner, bringing it to a level that analysts said values the AOL Internet unit at almost zero.

Wall Street is hoping that management will discuss the concerns head-on in a conference call at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow. Yesterday, Robert Sherman was named President of Interactive Marketing at America Online.

The stock’s decline has led some to mull "what if" scenarios for spinning off AOL, a move which is seen as unlikely, but the mere thought of such a move suggests how much has changed since AOL agreed to buy Time Warner in January 2000.

At that time, investors had worried that Time Warner's "old media" businesses of music, film, publishing and television would drag down the growth of AOL. Now investors are worrying about AOL's expansion as subscriber growth slows and advertising remains in the doldrums, leading many to question the benefits of the largest ever U.S. merger.

Wall Street analysts, however, said a spin-off was unlikely to lead to much appreciation in the company's battered shares. "Unless they're able to sell it for cash, there's no way to sell it for any more than its public market value, which is somewhere between $6 to $8 per AOL Time Warner share. It can have that value within AOL Time Warner or by itself. But either way it doesn't change the formula here," Jordan Rohan, analyst at SoundView Technology, told Reuters.

AOL Time Warner spokesman Ed Adler said a spin-off of the AOL operations was "nothing that we are contemplating." Still, some on Wall Street didn't rule out such a move down the line.

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