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May 16, 2002 | 0725 IST
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AOL offers stock options to Turner India staff

Anusha Subramanian

AOL Time Warner Inc, the world's largest integrated media company, has decided to give stock options to its employees of Turner International India.

Confirming the move, the official spokesperson of Turner International said in an e-mail, " We confirm that the employees of Turner International India Private Ltd have received options."

Turner International India is a wholly owned subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting Inc, an AOL Time Warner Company. Sources within the company confirmed that the options have been given to executive level employees and these options will be over and above their salaries.

There are close to 40 people employed with Turner International India.

Sources said this move was an indication of AOL Time Warner's long-term commitment towards India and to give its Indian employees a chance to participate in its future growth prospects.

However, the stock price of AOL Time Warner in the US markets has not been performing well. The stock is down more than 26 per cent this year and 42 per cent over the past 12 months. In this context media analysts were skeptical over the response to the stock options.

At the fag end of 2001, Zee Telefilms , the Indian media conglomerate promoted by Subhash Chandra formed a joint venture with Turner International India for distribution and marketing of both the groups channels.

The employees of Turner International India who were part of the distribution team have now become a part of the Zee Turner company. Market sources indicate that these employees who have now become a part of the new joint venture company will not be a applicable for the stock options.

For the three months ended March 31, 2002, revenues of AOL Time Warner rose 7 per cent to $9.76 billion. Net loss before actual change totalled $1 million, down from $1.37 billion. Revenues reflect increased sales due to AOL's merger with Time Warner. Lower loss reflects decreased amortisation of goodwill.

The merger has taken the toll on AOL. As is reported in international press, together the two companies were worth more than $300 billion when their corporate nuptials were announced in January 2000.

Today, AOL Time Warner's market value is $105 billion, and there is every reason to suspect it could fall further after the company has announced its first quarter results.

AOL Time Warner Inc. is having its annual meeting on Thursday May 16. It is understood from reports that it is likely to sport a more buttoned-down look at this meeting, giving up bold predictions about the convergence of old and new media it showed off last year.

At the shareholder meeting, Richard Parsons will officially take the helm of the world's largest Internet and media company from retiring chief executive Gerald Levin.

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