Sun reports £68m loss in 2019 after phone-hacking payouts while profits fall at Times titles

Phone-hacking claims cost the publisher of the Sun newspapers more than £50m in 2019, contributing to a pre-tax loss of £67.8m for the year.

News Group Newspapers, which also publishes the Sun on Sunday and thesun.co.uk, made turnover of £419.9m for the year to the end of June, up five per cent on the year before.

The publisher, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK – a subsidiary of News Corp, paid out £26.7m in damages and legal fees last year in settling civil claims that it illegally intercepted voicemails.

Stars including singer Sir Elton John, actress Elizabeth Hurley and activist Heather Mills accepted payouts ahead of trial in February last year, with soap stars also settling claims.

A number of the claims relate to the News of the World, which was published by NGN until its closure over the phone-hacking scandal in 2011.

NGN paid out a further £25.7m in costs relating to “UK newspaper matters” in 2019, the term used by News Corp for phone-hacking claims.

The publisher has repeatedly said it “makes no admission of liability” in relation to allegations of phone-hacking relating to the Sun.

NGN incurred more than £7.2m in redundancy costs in 2019, having called for voluntary redundancies following a pre-tax loss of £91.2m last year.

Although the average monthly number of editorial staff actually increased from 590 in 2018 to 605 in 2019.

Elsewhere at News UK, Times and Sunday Times publisher Times Newspapers reported a 60 per cent drop in pre-tax profits, down from £9.58m to £3.75m in 2019.

The publisher reported turnover of £330.2m, up slightly on the year before.

It is understood that the 20 per cent standard VAT rate on digital editions cost the publisher up to £9m for the year.

It is campaigning for a zero rate for digital editions, to match that in print, having successfully argued the case at a tribunal earlier this year.

Growth in digital subscriptions is said to “remain key to the ongoing success” of the Times titles, which surpassed 300,000 paid digital-only subscribers in August last year.

They have a total of 541,000 subscribers across print and digital.

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