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AOL Gets Last, Best Hope in Private Equity


For a private equity firm that’s looking for the cheapest way to get online, AOL Inc. (AOL) is trading for 57 cents on the dollar.

The Internet pioneer spun off from Time Warner Inc. (TWX) in 2009 plunged to a record low last week after cutting this year’s profit forecast because of slowing growth in display advertising sales. With its market capitalization reduced to $1.3 billion from a peak of $3.1 billion last year, New York-based AOL is now the cheapest relative to its net assets of any U.S. Web company with a value of more than $500 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

AOL has posted net losses of almost $800 million in less than two years as a standalone company as the profitable dial-up Internet business becomes obsolete and online advertising sales on websites from the Huffington Post to Moviefone fail to make money. With AOL trading at a 43 percent discount, the company may now attract private equity buyers that can still extract $1.5 billion in cash out of the access business within three years, according to B. Riley & Co.


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