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According to The Wall Street Journal, Vivendi SA is about to sell its 55% stake in AOL France to AOL Europe, people involved in the process said Friday.

The French communications and utilities giant holds its stake in AOL France together with 49% owned pay TV company Canal Plus. The rest is held by AOL Europe, which is now wholly owned by AOL Inc. after the U.S. company's purchase in March of Bertelsmann AG's 50% interest for roughly $8 billion (8.59 billion euros).

Bertelsmann explained its decision to exit by citing concerns about the cost of what promises to be fierce competition in Europe's Internet-service provider market, preferring to center its Internet strategy around content and e-commerce.

Since last summer, Vivendi has expressed dissatisfaction with AOL France, indicating that it would either seek to exchange its stake for one in AOL Europe, or to sell it outright. The sale of its interest in AOL France is likely to occur before the end of June, people close to the situation said.

Vivendi outgrew AOL France with the January formation of a 50-50 venture with Vodafone AirTouch PLC to create a Europe-wide Internet portal accessible by mobile and fixed-line telephone, personal computer, television and hand-held devices. That venture greatly reduced the interest in having a stake in a purely French access provider.

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