Company closes research unit, lays off 56

AOL is closing its research unit in China and pink-slipping 56 staffers as part of global cost cuts at Time Warner.

Thursday’s announcement about AOL Beijing Technology R&D came after a slew of rumors about the webco’s future in China. Its mainland China website had not been updated since Tuesday.

However, it said it would continue to publish its homepages and other websites for Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

In January, AOL announced it would cut about 700 jobs, or 10% of its workforce, to cope with a slump in ad revenues.

AOL has had a tough time in China, a territory many want to crack because it is the world’s biggest Internet market by number of webizens.

The company set up a joint venture with Lenovo in 2001 and invested $100 million in establishing its Chinese-language web portal FM365.com, but this shuttered in 2004.

It came back to China in April and launched its homepage, cn.aol.com.

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