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AOL buys in to N.Y. exchange

Just as it moves to the Big Board itself, America Online is planning to offer new software designed just to let New York Stock Exchange traders communicate better online.

America Online (AMER) not only plans to move to the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, it has struck a deal with the Big Board to help link NYSE member companies via a new online service.

AOL will create proprietary software for the NYSE to let members communicate with each other about stock regulation and trading, sources said. The deal illustrates how AOL is aggressively diversifying its business to defend the value of the proprietary online service that connects 6.5 million members worldwide.

"We are exploring some possibliities with America Online, but at this point it's very premature and it would be too soon to speculate on where it will lead us," a NYSE spokesman said today.

Company officials could not be reached for comment about the new software for exchange members.

What is public information, however, is that the number-one online service will shift Monday to the Big Board, trading under the symbol AOL. It now trades on Nasdaq under AMER.

"The NYSE seems like a better place to be now that we have reached a point in our development process," said AOL president Ted Leonsis in an interview in San Francisco today. "The NYSE has tight regulations and will suit us better."

Listing AOL on the Big Board may make it less vulnerable to the wild price swings that afflict many high-tech stocks that trade on Nasdaq, especially lately, analysts said. Some analysts believe that AOL has strong financial fundamentals but has been caught up in the industrywide downward spiral that has hurt Internet-related stocks lately.

AOL closed today at 25-7/8, down one point in Nasdaq trading. It has traded as high as 71 in the past 52 weeks and as low as 24-1/2.