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Vivendi U to click off AOL France

Messier could address issue Friday during report

NEW YORK — Vivendi Universal is close to clinching a deal to sell its stake in AOL France back to AOL Time Warner for about $700 million in cash or stock, pending a greenlight from Vivendi’s Cegetel unit, according to a news report from London.

The Paris-based conglom apparently had hoped to swap the stake for a piece of AOL Europe, but that didn’t work out.

A Vivendi U spokeswoman in New York declined to comment, but Vivendi topper Jean-Marie Messier said last week a deal for his piece of AOL France may be imminent.

Last year, America Online agreed to buy German media group Bertelsmann’s half of AOL Europe for $8.25 billion. AOL Time Warner is looking to rationalize and expand its European and international strategy after its giant merger early this year.

Vivendi agreed to buy 55% of AOL France in June 1998. Of that chunk, Cegetel holds 37% and Canal Plus 18%.

Messier could address the issue Friday when Vivendi Universal is scheduled to report its latest financial results.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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