Shedding more unwanted weight, AOL Time Warner
AOL Time Warner got the stake as a result of a pre-merger deal between AOL and Hughes back in 1999. AOL invested $1.5 billion in Hughes in exchange for convertible preferred stock, paying 6.25% a year for the past three years. Its hopes to promote its Internet service via satellite never really panned out, though.
Those convertible shares became common stock last year. AOL Time Warner reportedly got about $800 million for the stake yesterday. It already has a good use for the money it raised: paying down its $26 billion debt load.
CEO Richard Parsons has made reducing AOL Time Warner's debt a priority ever since he grabbed the reins at the media giant. When the company announced recently that it wants to spin off its cable operations as an IPO, for instance, it said that the first $2.1 billion raised will go to debt reduction. Other non-core businesses also possibly face the chopping block, including its stake in the Comedy Central cable channel, its book publishing division, and the Atlanta Braves baseball team.
Put simply, AOL Time Warner wants cash and wants it fast. Whatever can reasonably go will go.
AOL Time Warner will report fourth-quarter results today after the bell. It's expected that Parsons will lay out in greater detail how he intends to continue reducing the company's debt.