AT&T IS NOT OPTIMISTIC about a deal to buy America Online, says an AT&T insider, "unless the world changes dramatically." Still, reports that the telecommunications giant had expressed interest in buying the online kingpin sent AOL's shares soaring 5% on June 17. While confirming that the two companies did discuss the possibility of a sale, AT&T sources say negotiations stalled primarily because AOL CEO Stephen Case wants to retain control over his company. With AOL, AT&T would get 12 million cybernauts and could bundle its communications services with AOL's Net service. And if AOL teamed up with AT&T, it could save as much as $1 billion annually in network charges.

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