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Future publishing in running to buy BBC's magazine division

Two German publishers are also rumoured to be considering placing bids.

Future Publishing is likely to bid for BBC Worldwide's Radio Times to Top Gear magazine division, which publishes 34 magazines.

Bath-based Future Publishing owns over 50 magazines including Total Film and Metal Hammer.

In the past five years, Future has cut depts from £38.3m to just under £7m and reported profits before tax of £5.6m in the year to the end of September.

A bid for the BBC Worldwide magazine division is likely to have to be over the £100m mark.

Future only has a market capitalisation of £89m, so would probably have to raise cash from a share sale if it placed a formal bid.

BBC expects to receive formal, non-binding offers from two bidders this week.

BBC Worldwide was given permission to look for commercial partners for the magazine division in September, after arguing to the BBC Trust that the magazines were being restricted by the constraints of the corporation.

However, BBC asset sales have a reputation for taking a long time to be concluded, so a final deal is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

The favourite company to put forward a formal bid is German publisher Bauer, which has two UK operations - Bauer Media and H Bauer - which publishes Grazia and FHM as well as TV Choice and Total TV Guide.

Bauer is owned by a low-profile German family of billionaires who can afford to buy the titles.

If Bauer bought Radio Times it would gain control of around 80 per cent of the TV listings market.

Another German publisher, Herbert Burda, has also been linked with the deal.

Herbert Burda has recently doubled the number of international publications it owns to nearly 200.

BBC Worldwide wants one publisher to buy all its magazines, which has deterred a number of publishers who would have liked to purchase individual titles.

The BBC will retain a significant degree of control of its magazine brands.

Profits for the BBC's magazine division rose by 13.6 per cent in the year to the end of March.