BBC Worldwide sells historic Radio Times magazine

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BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of Britain's state broadcaster, on Tuesday sold its famous listings magazine Radio Times as part of two deals worth £121 million ($199 million, 138 million euros).

In one deal the BBC hands control of its magazines to a private equity firm while in the other it sells off its share in an Indian joint venture.

"BBC Worldwide and Exponent Private Equity today announce that they have signed a sale and licensing agreement for the publication of titles currently published by BBC Magazines, BBC Worldwide's consumer magazines business," it said a statement.

"Under the terms of the deal Exponent will acquire, in full, Radio Times and a number of magazines less closely aligned to the BBC, as well as the rights to publish BBC-branded titles under licensing and contract arrangements."

In addition, Bennett, Coleman & Co. -- which owns The Times of India newspaper -- is to take BBC Magazines' 50 percent stake in Indian joint venture Worldwide Media Ltd.

BBC Worldwide added that the bulk of the proceeds from the transactions would be re-invested in the British Broadcasting Corporation, which is slashing costs amid the government's austerity drive.

"These transactions will deliver a total of £121 million to BBC Worldwide, with the majority of the proceeds going back to the BBC," said a statement, adding that the deals were subject to regulatory approval.

BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith said the group would, as a result of the sales, be able to pursue a strategy "increasingly focused" on international video and digital services.

"The consumer magazines market faces a number of challenges, and this transaction brings a focus and degree of investment that BBC Worldwide alone is unable to provide," he added.

According to the BBC, its magazines business has grown to become Britain's fourth largest consumer magazines publisher by circulation, and number three by retail sales value.

The deal sees BBC Worldwide retain ownership of car magazine Top Gear, as well as its Good Food and Lonely Planet publications.

But it says goodbye to weekly publication The Radio Times, which has listed radio programmes since 1923, and today also provides details of television shows screened in Britain.

London-based Exponent already owns a string of British assets including railway ticket booking website, bed retail chain Dreams, Radley handbags, and specialist meat-alternative food group Quorn.

© 2011 AFP

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