London - Artefacts recovered from the wreck of the Titanic are set to be sold for $189m by Premier Exhibitions, the company that holds the salvage rights to the doomed ocean liner.
The wreck, discovered by explorer Robert Ballard in 1985, has yielded more than 5 500 artefacts for Premier, which has made eight expeditions to the ship since 1987.
The exhibition items range from delicate porcelain dishes and silver cutlery to a 17-ton section of the hull, complete with portholes, pulled from the Atlantic seabed where the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank 100 years ago with the loss of more than 1 500 lives.
Premier's shares jumped 18% on Tuesday, after it said in a regulatory filing it had signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell the artefacts for $189m to an unnamed group of individuals.
The company had been looking to sell its Titanic interests to concentrate on touring exhibitions but a federal court ruled in 2011 that a sale must ensure that the entire Titanic collection is kept together.
The sale, still subject to finance and other conditions, was part of efforts to find a permanent home for the Titanic artefacts as well as deliver a return to shareholders, the company said in the filing.
Premier, through its RMS Titanic subsidiary, is the only company permitted to recover objects from the Titanic, since it was granted salvor-in-possession rights by a US court in 1994.