The Times of London denied as pure speculation today that it had only one firm bid from potential buyers for it and its stablemate, the Sunday Times and supplements. It said that talks had begun with several interested groups.

The Canadian-based Thomson Organization announced in October that it would close the venerable paper in March if it could not be sold before then. Neither Thomson nor S. G. Warburg, the merchant bank handling the bids, would say who the interested groups are, nor how many there are. Robert Maxwell of Pergamon Press has declared himself a bidder.

"we shall not be making a statement today or tomorrow on the bids," said a spokesman for S. G. Warburg. By some accounts, Thomson had put a Jan. 1 deadline on finding a suitable buyer.

Lord Thomson made it clear that prospective buyers will have to produce credentials maintaining editorial standards as well as financial guarantees.

An outright purchase of the publications -- The Times, Sunday Times, Times Educational Supplement, Times Higher Educational Supplement and the Times Literary Supplement -- is regarded as unlikely.

The potentially profitable Sunday Times, with a circulation of 1.4 million, and the supplements, could be sold separately. The question for many was whether the Times itself will survive.