Chief executive Mike Southgate informed staff via email that the sale may be put back by an “extra couple of months”. He said: “The process is progressing - rest assured we will tell you something as soon as we can.”
The setback potentially moves the sale date from the end of March to the end of May, and will mean the discussions following the provision of Vendor Due Diligence reports in November 2007 will have lasted six months.
As it stands, no bidders have been announced despite suggestions that they would be unveiled at the end of October 2007.
A number of companies involved in the initial tender pulled out before going to the next stage. On the OB side, which is widely considered to be the most valuable, these included Fleetwood Mobiles, CTV and NEP Visions.
One OB industry insider said: “The£50m figure quoted just wasn't viable. The bigger commercial OB companies are running at about 75% high definition; BBC OB has about 20% [but is making further investments over the next year]. Any buyer would have to upgrade. I can't imagine taking on this division unless some of the staff commitments were dropped.”
BBC Studios will move to Manchester in four years' time, while BBC Post Production is facing extremely tough market conditions. Both could be contributing to a reluctance among potential buyers.
Pinewood Studios is the only known bidder not to deny that it is still involved in the process, and Macquarie-owned Arqiva, which is a specialist in the OB industry, was unavailable for comment.
BBC Resources is unlikely to drop staff commitments and promises. These include maintaining pension schemes and a promise of no job cuts for a year. A BBC insider said: “Those in charge of the sale are looking to secure a deal that honours these.”
Union representatives are due to meet the BBC on 5 March for an update on the sale.
Meanwhile, BBC Costume and Wigs ceased trading last week, as was announced last autumn.
It is believed that a bid to buy the stock has fallen through. BBC Resources is currently inviting interested parties to make an offer for it.