MediaOne Talking to AOL, Microsoft

Cable operator MediaOne Group has signed confidentiality agreements with America Online Inc. and Microsoft Corp., allowing it to discuss a possible merger with each.

Published reports citing people familiar with the negotiations say the agreements had the blessing of Comcast Corp., which is working to get its $4 billion takeover of MediaOne back on track.

Last month, Comcast announced it was buying MediaOne in a $48 billion stock deal. Its price was recently topped by AT&T Corp., which bid $54 billion in stock and cash. That prompted Comcast to turn to outsiders for help. Besides Microsoft and AOL, Paul Allen has expressed interest.

New bids must be submitted by May 5 and Comcast could likely have to approve any deal.

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