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Blodget Dubious AOL Will Face IM Concessions

Plus, a new money-saving idea from your favorite ISP.

America Online


loves to position itself as a name-brand Internet service provider people are willing to pay extra for. But it's got no qualms about users pinching pennies once they've paid their monthly fee.

The nation's largest online service said Thursday that it had cut a deal with online discounter SmartBargains that would make the retailer a top-billed merchant in

Bargain Basement

, a new section of AOL's


shopping area. SmartBargains says it sells "branded and quality merchandise" at discounts up to 80% in various retail categories including consumer electronics, clothing, jewelry and kitchen appliances.

AOL is taking a stake in SmartBargains, which was launched earlier this month, but didn't say how good a deal it cut on the purchase, nor other terms of the agreement. The management of SmartBargains includes current and former executives of offline consumer products liquidator

Gordon Brothers



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Internet analyst Henry Blodget, a major AOL bull, said Thursday that he didn't think AOL and its prospective acquisition target

Time Warner


would have to make material concessions to secure regulatory approval.

In a research report issue Thursday, Blodget said he disagreed with a Wednesday

Wall Street Journal

story that suggested AOL would have to open quickly its

AOL Instant Messenger

service to competitors. Even if it had to, Blodget said, it wouldn't be a major negative for the company. Other conditions that U.S. or European regulators might impose on AOL Time Warner wouldn't have a material impact on the company's financial performance, he said.

Blodget said he thought the AOL-Time Warner merger would close on time, most likely in November. He has a buy on the company; his firm has been an underwriter for AOL.

AOL was up 38 cents to $53.38 in Thursday trading.