AOL Assets May Garner $4 Billion

From Bloomberg News

AOL Time Warner Inc., the world's largest media company, expects to raise $2 billion to $4 billion by selling assets, Chief Executive Richard Parsons said Tuesday.

The company is considering selling businesses including its professional sports teams and its Warner Books publishing division, Parsons said at a Bear, Stearns & Co. investor conference in Palm Beach, Fla. He had first said last year that the company might sell its sports teams, and acknowledged last month that the book unit could be on the block.

Parsons said two months ago that AOL Time Warner will reduce its debt to about $20 billion by the end of 2004 from $25.8 billion. Cash raised in asset sales and cash flow from the company's businesses, which include cable-television network CNN, and the Time Inc. group of magazines will be used to pay debt, he said.

"We're looking at some of our assets like our sports franchises" to sell, Parsons said. The company owns the Atlanta Braves baseball franchise and Atlanta Hawks basketball team.

New York-based AOL Time Warner took over the teams when the company bought Turner Broadcasting System Inc. in 1996. Former owner Ted Turner had used the teams to program his TV networks, which included WTBS and TNT.

"Our sports franchises once bore a particular relationship to cable network programming but don't anymore," Parsons said.

AOL Time Warner also will sell businesses "where you either need to be bigger or you need to be out," he said. "An example of that is our book business."

AOL Time Warner might sell businesses that it owns jointly with other companies, Parsons said. "We've looked at a number of our assets that have more value, because they're jointly owned, to one of the two owners," he said.

AOL Time Warner fell 33 cents to $10.87 in New York Stock Exchange trading.

AOL Time Warner hopes to complete its planned initial public offering of its cable-television systems unit as soon as the end of the second quarter or by "late summer" at the latest, Parsons said.

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