The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) is hoping that private investors will buy licences for at least two to three of its rugby franchises.

The NZRU announced last year it was selling licences for four of its five franchises, with the Highlanders being the exception. It has said that at least one proposal had been received for each of the four franchises concerned - the Blues, the Chiefs, the Hurricanes and the Crusaders.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew told TV3's The Nation programme on Saturday that all the franchises were looking to return a profit and there had been good interest in them.

"We're quite well progressed with four separate parties for the four franchises we put up for tender.

"Come the end of September we'll be making some announcements one way or another."

The licences are for three years and have renewal opportunities.

"There is a good chance that at least two or three of the proposals we're working through will come through to a conclusion," he said.

A lot of the interest in the franchises had come from people already involved in them.

The NZRU was introducing a "soft approach to private equity involvement" to reduce the risk to its balance sheet when franchises made losses but it did not want to lose control of players.

In the UK and France the national teams virtually had to negotiate their players out of clubs to play for their country.

NZ Newswire