BBC director-general moots flotation of BBC Worldwide stake

LONDON - The BBC could part-privatise its commercial arm BBC Worldwide via a stockmarket flotation according to director-general Mark Thompson.

In an interview with The Guardian following the BBC's announcement last week that it would review what it will focus on as digital switchover approaches in 2012, Thompson said the BBC should look at "whether 100% ownership of Worldwide is essential going forward".

In July a report claimed the BBC had appointed investment bank Goldman Sachs to advise it on its options for BBC Worldwide.

The BBC and Channel 4 are also in long-running discussions about a merger between Channel 4 and parts or all of BBC Worldwide, with encouragement from government ministers keen to resolve the future funding of Channel 4.

Underlining BBC resistance to this plan, Thompson said in the interview that a full-scale merger "misses the fundamental point of what Worldwide is".

He added that the BBC was studying other options for BBC Worldwide other than a stockmarket flotation, including selling a stake to a rival broadcaster or an international partner.

BBC Worldwide last year made pre-tax profits of £102.6m on revenues of just over £1bn from activities spanning the operation of international TV channels and the BBC.com website and the licensing of programme brands such as 'Top Gear' and 'Strictly Come Dancing'.

Last Week, in an email to staff, Thompson responded to recent criticism of the BBC from James Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corporation Europe and Asia, saying he was "desperately out of touch".

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