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Two bidders emerge for ITV's Friends Reunited

LONDON - ITV is understood to have received a number of approaches regarding its social networking site Friends Reunited, which is thought to be worth less than £50m.

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According to a report in the Sunday Telegraph the Generations Network in the US, which owns Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com, and Scotland-based Brightsolid, the owner of Findmypast.com, have both asked for the information memorandum on Friends Reunited.

The two genealogy sites are thought to be particularly interested in Genes Reunited, the Friends Reunited spin-off which has ridden the wave of interest surrounding genealogy as more and more become interested in tracing the roots of their families.

They are among a large number of parties that have asked ITV for the sale details as the commercial broadcaster searches for a successor to Michael Grade, who will become part-time chairman by the end of the year.

Some leading investors have urged ITV to install Tony Ball, the former chief executive of BSkyB, as its chief executive.

The sale of Friends Reunited is being handled by Credit Suisse and was first predicted in February before ITV confirmed in March that it would sell the business it bought in 2005 for £175m.

In March, ITV's online director Ben McOwen Wilson said he was hoping that ITV would receive more than £60m for Friends United, but with analysts giving it a value of around £40m its hopes are likely to be dashed.

The value of Friends Reunited has plummeted since ITV bought it and it was overtaken by the arrival of social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook and MySpace.

According to recent comScore data the number of unique users on Friends Reunited has fallen from 5m three years ago to 1.7m in December.

ITV also recently parted company with its head of online revenue, Gary Cole, who headed the broadcaster's online sales team and who job it was to maximise the revenues of both ITV.com and Friends Reunited, which dropped its subscription access model last year to go free.

Cole left as part of cost and 500 job cuts.

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