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Phone giant, AOL in talks

Bertelsmann expresses interest in alliance

BERLIN — The phone company wants in on the action. Germany’s mobile phone giant Mannesmann is in talks with America Online about providing content for a joint European multimedia and Internet platform to be run with French giant Vivendi, the Financial Times reported over the weekend.

The service would be available over Mannesmann and Vivendi’s mobile and fixed phone lines as well as over cable television, German weekly Der Spiegel reported.

Vivendi’s assets include Internet service provider AOL France, pay TV channel Canal Plus and the French phone company Cegetel, in which Mannesmann owns a 15% stake.

In Monday’s issue of Der Spiegel, Vivendi topper Jean-Marie Messier is quoted as saying that Vivendi’s activities fit exceptionally well with those of Mannesmann.

Other players, including German giant Bertelsmann, have expressed an interest in the alliance, the magazine reported. Bertelsmann is already a joint shareholder with Vivendi in AOL France.

Mannesmann and Vivendi have been in talks for some months about a strategic alliance. Mannesmann is currently trying to ward off a hostile bid from British phone player Vodafone.

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