Sports broadcaster Setanta Sports has received takeover approaches from several large media companies and is evaluating whether to conduct an auction, a source familiar with the matter confirmed today.

The company is discussing its next move with financial adviser Goldman Sachs, added the source. Both Setanta and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Reports say the firm has received offers of over €1.3 billion for the company.  It is also believed to have received the unsolicited approach from an unnamed European media company before Christmas.

Setanta is understood to be looking for a valuation in excess of €1.3 billion, even though the company has yet to make a profit.

Among those that may express an interest are BT, ITV, Virgin Media and Disney - the owner of sports network ESPN. ESPN executives have made it clear that they are interested in breaking into the lucrative UK football rights industry.

The company, which in 2006 agreed to pay €500m over three years to share live Premiership football coverage with BSkyB, hopes to break even by the end of the year.

However, the group could face competition on digital terrestrial television as Sky is pushing for the right to launch a pay-TV service to Freeview customers.

Setanta was founded by friends Leonard Ryan and Michael O'Rourke in 1990. It operates 10 channels in Ireland, Britain, North America and Australia.

Other shareholders include Balderton Capital, Doughty Hanson and Montrica.

The decision to pursue a sale rather than a flotation is thought to have been taken because of the poor state of the markets.