Yahoo reportedly in talks to buy AOL stake

Luring AOL customers to Yahoo's search engine may be part of the attraction

Yahoo Inc. is the latest in a series of companies looking to purchase a stake in American Online Inc. (AOL), The Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition on Friday.

Neither company is commenting, according to the Journal, which said Yahoo and Time Warner Inc., AOL's parent company, are in preliminary talks about a possible deal. Yahoo is interested in luring AOL users to its search engine, according to the paper. The discussions earlier were reported on TheStreet.com.

Lately AOL has been much sought after by technology companies looking to beef up their online media and services businesses. In addition to Yahoo, Microsoft Corp., Comcast Corp. and Google Inc. all have expressed interest in buying a portion of the company, according to recent reports.

Though all the companies have their reasons for wanting a stake in AOL, the competition itself is becoming reason enough to join the fray, said Joe Wilcox, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research.

"Because the suitors are all competitors, it's become a case of not just what AOL might do for me, but how AOL might hurt me if one of my competitors gets them," he said.

Analysts said all the companies courting AOL are mainly interested in its popular online portal, the content of which will help drive advertising revenue.

"You get the eyeballs, you make the money," Wilcox said.

Like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft's MSN division also would garner more advertising revenue by driving AOL's substantial user base to their search engines, he added.

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