NEW YORK (Reuters) - Business networking Web site LinkedIn would help News Corp in the fast-growing online social network business, Goldman Sachs Internet and media analyst Anthony Noto said on Wednesday.
"I think LinkedIn is an important strategic asset," Noto told the Reuters Media Summit in New York. "Strategically, it would be a great fit."
Industry blog TechCrunch last week raised speculation that News Corp had approached LinkedIn about an acquisition. Fortune blog Go West quoted LinkedIn Chief Executive Dan Nye as saying he would be willing to sell the company, but for "a lot more" than $1 billion.
LinkedIn is a networking Web site intended for people such as job seekers and entrepreneurs to find new business contacts.
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp NWS.N owns the world's largest social network, MySpace, but LinkedIn's business-centered approach could fit in well with the company's plan to buy Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones & Co DJ.N. News Corp has not commented on the rumors.
Separately, Noto said he thinks Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) should set up its AOL unit as a separate, publicly traded company and maintain a majority stake.
"AOL would be better served as a public company," Noto said. Doing that would give it more flexibility to buy other companies and grow internationally.
The chances are greater that Time Warner could restructure in the next 12 months now that Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Bewkes will take over as CEO after Richard Parsons steps down in 2008.
More generally, Noto said he had a "cautious" view of the entertainment industry because of the challenges it faced.
He cited a "greater-than-expected economic and therefore advertising slowdown" in 2008.
Among his top picks are Walt Disney Co.(DIS.N) in media and Google Inc (GOOG.O) in Internet, while he expressed concerns about CBS Corp (CBS.N) because of its exposure to advertising.
He said advertising is forecast to be flat to up 1 percent in 2008, but could be down around 7 percent for the year if the economy slides into a recession.
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