Vivendi, AOL seek deal

Venture could include AOL Europe stake

PARIS — Jean-Marie Messier, CEO of French utilities giant Vivendi, predicted Thursday that negotiations with AOL will result in a deal before mid-year.

Vivendi, which owns 49% of French pay TV group Canal Plus, is already a 55% shareholder in AOL France, but has expressed a desire to strike a partnership with a bigger access provider.

AOL, meanwhile, is interested in Vivendi and Vodafone’s 50-50 joint venture MAP, named for a multiple access portal providing access to the Internet via mobile phones.

At a press lunch Thursday in Paris, Messier predicted that MAP, to be based in London, will go public within two years.

Messier said that the current negotiations with AOL could result either in Vivendi taking a stake in AOL Europe, or, as AOL would prefer, in a deal involving MAP.

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