Published: August 9, 2010 08.32 Europe/London

Virgin UKTV logoVirgin Media is ready to complete its withdrawal from the content business by placing its 50% interest in UKTV for sale. Its partner in the business is BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm.

UKTV currently runs ten core channels including Dave and Yesterday, both of which have Freeview distribution, and Gold, the former UK Gold, the only survivor of the company’s 1997 launch. The other channels in the portfolio are Alibi, Blighty, Eden, Home, Good Food and Watch.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday (August 9) that Virgin had hired investment banks UBS and Goldman Sachs in a bid to raise some £350 million (€421m) from the sale. UBS was previously engaged in the sale of VMtv, sold to BSkyB in June for £160 million.

BSkyB has naturally been linked with a bid – UKTV is the largest supplier of channels to Sky after Sky itself – though such a move is likely to attract the attention of the competition authorities. A more likely bidder would be ITV, which recently announced plans to bolster its pay-TV credentials.

In any case, BBC Worldwide has a first right of refusal.