America Online and Time Warner have announced plans to merge in an all-stock deal the companies value at $US350 billion.
The new company, to be called AOL Time Warner, will have combined revenues of over $30 billion, the companies said in a joint statement.
AOL Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Case will serve as chairman of the new company, and Time Warner Chairman and CEO Gerald Levin will be CEO of AOL Time Warner, the companies said.
If their deal is successful, the companies see themselves as positioned to speed development of the Internet and its related businesses, according to the joint statement, with AOL's CEO Case saying it will "fundamentally change the way people get information, communicate with others, buy products and are entertained."
The merger will give AOL, the world's largest online access company, a new broadband distribution platform for its services, as well as new subscribers through access to Time Warner's media outlets, the companies said. Time Warner's businesses include cable networks, publishing, music, film, cable and digital media. Some of its best-known properties are the publications Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune Magazine, and People, as well as the cable television networks CNN, and HBO, the movie company Warner Brothers, and Warner Music.
Under the terms of a definitive merger agreement already approved by both companies' board of directors, Time Warner shareholders and AOL shareholders will be able to exchange their shares for stock in the new company. Time Warner shareholders will receive 1.5 shares of AOL Time Warner for each share of Time Warner stock they own, and America Online shareholders will receive one share of AOL Time Warner stock for each share of America Online stock they own, the companies said.
The merger still must get approval from both companies' shareholders as well as the appropriate regulatory approvals. The companies expect the deal to close by the end of the year. Ted Turner, vice chairman of Time Warner, has agreed to vote his 9 percent of Time Warner common stock in favour of the merger, the companies said. The merger will be accounted for as a purchase transaction and is expected to be accretive to America Online's cash earnings per share before the amortisation of goodwill.
When the transaction is complete, America Online's shareholders will own approximately 55 percent and Time Warner's shareholders will own approximately 45 percent of AOL Time Warner.
Separately, the companies also announce a series of marketing, commerce, content and promotional agreements. They include giving AOL members access to Time Warner promotional music clips, and distributing broadband CNN content for AOL Plus, AOL's new offering for AOL customers that connect via broadband.
One analyst saw a number of advantages to the deal.
"This gives AOL access to a large range of content and Time Warner a channel for its content," said Stephen Adshead, a London-based analyst with the U.K. consulting company Datamonitor. "Another advantage for AOL is that it will gain access to Time Warner's cable network, and as we move into the broadband world that will become increasingly important," he said.
(Douglas F. Gray, in London, contributed to this report.)