BBC denies inviting bids for Worldwide commercial arm

The BBC has played down reports that its commercial arm BBC Worldwide is up for sale. It has been suggested that major media groups, including Time Warner, Disney and Bertelsmann, have been invited to submit bids for parts of the division.

However, a spokeswoman said that while BBC Worldwide had held discussions with other media companies, they had merely been invited to contribute to the external consultation process along with financial institutions and media consultants.

This consultation process is one of a series of wide-ranging reviews instigated by the BBC's chairman, Michael Grade, and its director-general, Mark Thompson, as part of the Corporation's charter review bid to the Government.

Although it is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BBC, BBC Worldwide runs several joint-venture operations, such as the UKTV portfolio of channels with Flextech and partnerships with the Canadian channel Alliance Atlantis.

It is also a major magazine publisher and any plan to change its ownership structure is likely to spark intense interest. Based on its reported cashflow of £141 million in the 12 months to March 2004, BBC Worldwide has been valued at up to £2 billion.

BBC Worldwide said in a statement on Wednesday: "The piece in today's FT is misleading. A wide range of external organisations have been invited to meet with the BBC to contribute their thoughts on its commercial operations. They have not been invited to bid for BBC Worldwide as reported."

BBC'S COMMERCIAL ASSETS

Television: BBC America; BBC Canada; BBC Kids; BBC Prime; BBC Food; nine UKTV channels including UKTV Gold, UKTV Style

New media: Beeb.net

Publishing: BBC Video; BBC Books

Magazines: 39 titles including Radio Times; Eve; Top of the Pops;Top Gear; Tweenies; Olive; BBC Good Food; BBC Good Homes; BBC Gardeners' World.

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