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CompuServe sell-off coming soon

Anticipation is high surrounding H&R Block's possible sell-off of remaining controlling interest in CompuServe, and a deal is coming "soon," say company officials.

    A deal to sell off H&R Block's (HRB) remaining controlling interest in CompuServe (CSRV) is coming "soon," according to company officials.

    The prospective buyer is rumored to be New York-based Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. The company has been named as a candidate for some time.

    For now, the official word from the firm is not conclusive: "Some partners in our firm may or may not be involved in this, but there is no comment at this time," said a spokeswoman for one of the partners.

    But the word around CompuServe's campus is that the company's board of directors is voting today on whether to go forward with the deal. Company officials confirm they are in discussions with a prospective merger and/or acquisition partner, but said the considered company has not been named.

    Steve Conway, a spokesman for CompuServe, said "We are in active discussions, and everything else is speculation."

    That speculation has been playing havoc on the company's stock price for months.

    The only thing that is certain is that everyone at the flagging online service is looking forward to a more solid future.

    "People are real pumped up when we say we are in talks...Everyone wants to get uncertainty behind us," he said.

    One company insider said the morale of the company has really gone down during the talks over recent months, and it has been "really frustrating," but the drawn out nature of this deal in the works has become "a way of life."

    Parent company H&R Block has said that it has been waiting for CompuServe to improve its financial condition before attempting to spin off its stake to H&R Block shareholders. Late last month, CompuServe posted a smaller-than-expected loss.

    Today, the company's stock gained 1/4 point from yesterday's close of 12-5/8.