America Online, Inc., Bertelsmann, Canal+ and Cegetel today announced that they have signed the agreements announced January 29, 1998 establishing a new strategic alliance to provide French consumers with an unparalleled online Internet experience. Under the agreement Cegetel (36.7%) and Canal +(18.3%) will jointly acquire a majority stake of 55% in AOL and CompuServe France. America Online and Bertelsmann will jointly own 45%. With more than 285,000 members, the alliance will capitalize on the world-class technology and brands of AOL and its worldwide customer base of more than 14 million members; the editorial creativity of Canal+, which has created France's most popular media web site; the technical expertise and commercial dynamism of Cegetel, the first private telecommunications operator in France; and the marketing and content experience of Bertelsmann, the third largest media company in the world. Beginning this fall, Canal+ will offer original interactive content developed by its online team exclusively for AOL France. AOL France will give prominent placement to Canal+ programming on its 'Entertainment' and 'Sport' channels. Canal+'s unique offerings will include a twice-weekly news magazine devoted to sports. AOL France will feature Canal+'s exclusive 'Entertainment' programming such as weekly movie magazine which will preview all new film releases and live chats where AOL France members can chat with their favorite celebrities. The four partners will continue to develop the CompuServe brand for professional users. CompuServe users will continue to enjoy high quality content and services and benefit from the technological expertise of the new partnership. "This strategic alliance -- which combines the brand power, ground breaking content, technology, and marketing resources of four industry leading companies -- sets the stage for us to develop the full potential of interactive services in France, resulting in a great offering for this market," said Steve Case, Chairman & CEO of America Online, Inc. "This alliance will enable us to bring the most easy to use, affordable and compelling Internet online experience to French consumers and business users." Thomas Middelhoff, who is a member of the Executive Board and designated Chairman and CEO of Bertelsmann AG, welcomed the new partnership: "We at Bertelsmann are convinced that the four partners bring together all the skills and resources that are necessary to reach a breakthrough for the Internet online business in France. After the tremendous success that the joint venture between Bertelsmann and AOL has already achieved with its more than two million members across Europe, it can already claim to be the leading pan-European Internet online service. We are sure that the new partnership will profit from this dynamic development." "This alliance symbolizes for the Vivendi Group the intention to gain a strong presence in the Internet online services market in France. With our partners AOL and Bertelsmann, we have created the best team to develop Internet online services in France and provide consumers with the best of news, knowledge, commerce, and entertainment services," said Jean-Marie Messier, President and CEO of Vivendi and of Cegetel. Pierre Lescure, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CANAL+, said: "More than ever, the consumer holds all the cards to claim the best service, the most protection and therefore is the true winner. Each partner in the joint venture will bring to the consumer a broad range of services of high value, many of them exclusive - and all at the best price. The development of Internet access in France will also benefit from AOL's global reach." The current agreement is pending approval by the European Union authorities.