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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
BBC in talks on Worldwide future
The Office - BBC TV show
BBC Worldwide sells the rights to TV shows like The Office
The BBC has held talks with three global media giants over the future of its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

But it has denied reports that the talks with Time Warner, Walt Disney and Bertelsmann centred on the possible sale of Worldwide.

The BBC said it consulted the companies for a review of its commercial arm.

"We're exploring every option, from status quo to complete sale and everything in between," Donald Steel, a BBC head of press said.

He denied a report in the Financial Times which said the three had been "invited to discuss possible bids".

"We're talking to people, including these companies, but they're not the only companies. We're consulting - that's not offering a business for sale," said Mr Steel.

Award winning

BBC Worldwide owns a wide range of assets including BBC Americas, magazines such as Radio Times and a partial stake in the digital channel UKTV.

It also sells the rights of BBC programmes - including The Office which won two Golden Globes in the US - overseas.

We're exploring every option, from status quo to complete sale and everything in between
Donald Steel, BBC Worldwide

Bertelsmann refused to comment on the report as it unveiled its results, however chief executive Gunter Thielen did say he was ready to use a 2bn euro (1.35bn, $2.4bn) war chest to invest in growth.

Representatives from Time Warner and Disney were not available for comment.

'Exploring options'

The review of BBC Worldwide is still in its early stages, Mr Steel said, adding that investment bankers have been called in to assist with the review.

Rothschild, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and Canada's CIBC have been called in to examine the business.

The publicly-funded broadcaster launched the review in preparation for the 2006 renewal of its governing charter, and also in the wake of Lord Hutton's damning report of its news reporting in the run up to the Iraq war.

According to the Financial Times, BBC chief operating officer and finance director John Smith met the top 100 executives of BBC Worldwide on Tuesday to discuss options for the business.

It added that executives believe Worldwide could be worth up to 2bn ($3.6bn).

The business generated cash flow of 141m on sales totalling 657m in 2003/04.

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