MEDIA mogul Richard Desmond is reportedly considering putting Channel 5 up for sale with a price tag of more than £700m.
Mr Desmond, whose Northern & Shell media group also owns the Express and Star newspapers, has asked advisers at Barclays to review options for the broadcaster, including a potential sale early in the new year, according to the Financial Times.
The entrepreneur bought Channel 5 for £103.5m in 2010 and has since overhauled the network, bringing on board programmes such as Big Brother.
It returned to operating profit in the first half of 2013, with earnings of £20.6m against losses of £16.1m a year earlier.
While a sale of Channel 5 would deliver a hefty profit for Mr Desmond, it is thought there is no guarantee he will decide to offload it.
A spokesman for Northern & Shell said: “As a media group with a broad portfolio of assets, we are often the subject of speculation, but it remains our policy not to comment on these matters.”
Free-to-air broadcasters are enjoying a recovery in advertising markets after the recession.
Rival ITV recently reported a six per cent hike in overall revenues for the first nine months of its financial year after net advertising revenues rose 11 per cent in the third quarter. In November, ITV’s chief executive Adam Crozier also hailed the broadcaster’s “increasingly varied and high quality schedule” after its main channel’s viewing share rose from 15.6 per cent to 16.1 per cent in the year to October 31.
Its shares have soared tenfold since 2009 thanks to the brighter advertising outlook as the economy recovers.
Mr Desmond snapped up Channel 5 three years ago from European entertainment group RTL, which had written down the value of the network by more than three-quarters.