Page last updated at 18:48 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 19:48 UK

Offer made for stake in Setanta

Robin Van Persie of Arsenal
Setanta only won one package of live Premier League games from 2010/11

US investor Len Blavatnik is offering £20m in return for a 51% stake in the troubled Irish pay-tv channel Setanta.

Access Industries, which is owned by Mr Blavatnik, said it had submitted a proposal but gave no further details.

Other investors have signalled they may be prepared to put in a further £20m, the BBC has learned.

Setanta has been hit by a lack of subscribers and by winning only one of the new English Premier League TV packages starting in 2010/11.

Mr Blavatnik is also involved with Top-Up TV, the pay-TV channel on Freeview.

His plan has a reasonable chance of succeeding, according to the BBC's business editor Robert Peston.

If other investors put in a further £20m or so, it may be enough to refinance the business, he says.

A Setanta microphone
English Premier League
Scottish Premier League
Blue Square Premier
IPL cricket
US PGA Tour golf

In a statement, Access Industries said: "The Access proposal is subject to a number of preconditions being met. Access believes that this proposal would secure the the future of the broadcaster for customers, football and employees."

Sources close to Setanta said that it had received an offer for the majority of the company, which the board was recommending, although it was subject to a closer look at the company's accounts.

Toby Syfret from Enders Analysis said Mr Blavatnik's involvement with Top-Up TV meant that he would not want to see Setanta go under.

"Top-Up TV is one means by which Freeview subscribers can get Setanta. They either go to Setanta directly or through Top-Up TV.

"So it's very important for Top-Up TV that Setanta manages to survive in good shape," he said.

Mounting debts

Mr Blavatnik, who works with the former boss of BSkyB David Chance, has not been immune from the fall-out of the credit crisis.

A huge petrochemicals maker he backed, LyondellBasell, has collapsed, meaning big losses for its creditors, which include Royal Bank of Scotland.

[Mr Blavatnik's] hope is that - at the very least - his intervention will buy Setanta some time
Robert Peston, BBC business editor

Setanta, which shows cricket, golf and rugby union as well as football, has about 1.2 million subscribers.

But this is only about 60% of the number it needs, according to analysts, and the company is losing up to £100m a year.

Setanta needs to pay £30m that is due to the English Premier League and has already failed to pay the Scottish Premier League £3m it owes in television rights money.

On Wednesday, Setanta confirmed it had stopped taking on new customers.

The company has been holding urgent talks in an attempt to secure its future. An approach to rival broadcaster BSkyB failed, while Walt Disney-owned sports network ESPN denied speculation on Thursday that it would buy Setanta.

Under the current UK broadcast deal for the English Premier League, which lasts for one more season, BSkyB holds four packages of rights to show live matches - a total of 92 games - while Setanta has the other two packages, which cover 46 games.

However, for the TV deal starting in 2010/11 Setanta only won the rights to show one Premier League package of 23 games per season.

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Sky Sports Tycoon confirms Setanta rescue bid - 28 hrs ago
Sunday TimesRussian oligarch rescues Setanta with 20m deal - 42 hrs ago
RTE Online Signs good for Setanta takeover - 44 hrs ago
The Independent Hopes for Setanta new - 45 hrs ago
ITN US tycoon tables Setanta bid - 46 hrs ago
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