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AOL Latin America Going Public

Prompted by the success of its brand in central and South America, America Online Inc. will take its Latin America subsidiary public with a proposed initial public offering of $575 million.

America Online Latin America, Inc., whose proposed ticker symbol is AOLA, filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell $575 million of Class A common stock. Salomon Smith Barney Inc., Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. and Lehman Brothers Inc. will act as underwriters of the offering.

No IPO date or price has yet been set.

The subsidiary has already launched an America Online (AOL) site in Brazil and had plans to expand to other regions, including Mexico and Argentina, later this year. The region is a hotbed for Internet growth, with International Data Corp. predicting 19.1 million users by 2003. Also of interest, seven of Inter@ctive Week's 20 "emerging nations" in terms of Internet use are found in Latin America -- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

AOL's Latin American brand may be new, but it has already seen its share of controversy. In May, the company went to court with local Brazilian Internet service provider America On Line over the domain name aol.com.br. The Brazilian ISP prevailed, forcing AOL Brazil to provide its services under br.aol.com.