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AOL Latin America sets IPO price range

The Internet service provider's Latin American unit sets a price range of $15 to $17 for the 25 million shares it will sell in an initial public offering.

    America Online's Latin American unit set a price range of $15 to $17 for the 25 million shares it will sell in an initial public offering, which would give the company a market capitalization of about $4 billion.

    Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based AOL Latin America is a joint venture between AOL and the Cisneros Group, a media, entertainment and telecommunications leader in the region. The company has also struck a deal with Banco Itau to market AOL to its 7 million customers in exchange for 31 million shares of AOL Latin America stock.

    AOL Latin America, which will receive about $370 million from the share sale, will offer Spanish and Portuguese versions of AOL Instant Messenger, Buddy Lists, email and chat rooms. Customers will also have the option of personalizing the services with custom stock portfolios and area-specific news.

    The Internet service provider launched the service in Brazil in November 1999, along with a Brazilian Internet portal. Service is expected to begin in Mexico and Argentina later this year, followed by other countries in Latin America.

    "Latin America is one of the next biggest markets as far as technology," said Jeff Hirschkorn, senior market analyst with IPO.com. "It represents a good opportunity to buy into an emerging market."

    Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Securities and Salomon Smith Barney will co-handle the sale. The shares would trade on the Nasdaq Stock Market, although no ticker has been proposed.