Virgin Media 'plots UKTV stake sale'
Published Aug 9 2010, 09:45 BST | By Andrew Laughlin
Virgin Media has reportedly put its 50% stake in digital broadcasting business UKTV up for sale, with BBC Worldwide the frontrunner for a deal.
UKTV operates 10 linear channels, including Dave, Watch, Good Food and Yesterday, along with a range of video on-demand and online resources. It attracts around 36 million viewers every month.
The company was founded in 1997 as a joint venture between Virgin Media and BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm.
According to The Sunday Times
, Virgin Media wants to sell its UKTV stake as part of a strategy of disposing of non-core assets to concentrate on its cable business.
The company expects to raise around £350 million from the sale, which it will use to reduce its corporate debt.
Virgin Media has hired investment banks UBS and Goldman Sachs to search for a buyer for the stake over the coming months.
Worldwide, which has first refusal on the remaining UKTV shareholding it does not already own, is being viewed as the most logical party to complete a deal. However, Channel 4 and Sky
are also thought to be in the running.
In June, Sky purchased
the Virgin Media Television business for £160m, including the Living, Bravo and Challenge brands.
Sky is currently investing heavily in its broadcasting and content businesses and so a deal for the successful UKTV channels could appeal to the firm.