Another name can be added to the growing list of companies reported to have been in talks with financial services giant H&R Block about buying CompuServe.
New York-based investment firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe is close to a deal to acquire CompuServe, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A number of newspapers have picked up the story, causing fluctuations in H&R Block and CompuServe's stock prices. CompuServe closed last week at 13-1/2, up by 5/8, while H&R Block's shares' after rising the day before, closed at 40-3/16, down by 9/16.
CompuServe's stock price has fallen about 60%since April 1996, when 20% of its shares were sold to the public. Since H&R Block bought Compuserve in 1980, it has seen its share of the online market drop as America Online grew, and more recently as the World Wide Web allowed people to go online easily without using online services.
H&R Block acknowledges that it has been in discussions with a variety of companies about selling stakes in Compuserve - the US's oldest online service, founded in 1969 - but has declined to comment on specific reports.
"We have said we have been in talks about combining our business with other companies but have never set a deadline," according to an H&R Block spokeswoman in Kansas City, Missouri.
Other companies reported to have been in talks with H&R Block about Compuserve include AOL, Bertelsmann AG, and Worldcom.
The Wall Street Journal story, citing unnamed sources, reported that H&R Block would
maintain a minority interest in CompuServe and that Welch, Carson would seek to buy the majority of H&R Block's interest, as well as the 20 percent in public hands. Welch, Carson did not return phone calls seeking comment.