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Thompson considers £1bn sale of BBC Worldwide arm

LONDON - The new BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, is actively considering the sale of the corporation's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, which could bring more than £1bn to the corporation.

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BBC Worldwide owns magazines, books, videos rights and toy merchandising, BBC America and a portfolio of digital channels, which brought £123m to the broadcaster between 2002 and 2003.

Goldman Sachs has expressed an interest in the commercial arm, as well as trade buyers and private equity vehicles. A senior BBC source has responded to the claims by saying "All options are open".

Media giants Disney, Viacom and RTL have expressed an interest in the digital channels BBC Worldwide operates under the UKTV banner with Telewest subsidiary Flextech.

The BBC is one of the UK's biggest magazine publishers and the large publishing houses, IPC Media, Emap and the National Magazine Company, have all expressed interest in the corporation's magazine division, which is behind the Radio Times, BBC Good Food, Top of the Pops and new food magazine Olive among others.

News of a possible sell-off of the BBC commercial arm follows the recently announced charter renewal plans where Thompson and chairman Michael Grade revealed a return to BBC's public service roots.

A BBC spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the sell-off.

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