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Phone hacking scandal still costing The Sun millions

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
The front page of the Sun newspaper reporting on the EU referendum on a news stand in Westminster, London, Thursday, June 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

The company behind The Sun newspaper is still facing rising costs from the fallout of the phone hacking scandal almost a decade ago.

News Group Newspapers, which owns The Sun and The Sun on Sunday, said in recent accounts that it has set aside millions more to cover claims linked to phone hacking at the News of the World.

The News of the World was closed down in 2011 after revelations that it had obtained information for stories by hacking into the voicemails of celebrities. At the time, the paper was the Sunday sister edition to The Sun.

The scandal led to “a number of civil cases against the company,” News Group Newspapers said in its accounts, “most of which have been settled, or are in the process of being settled.”

However, the cost of settling the claims continues to rise and News Group said it had set aside £26.7m to cover the settlements, up from £14.7m in 2018.

The company also warned that “the final cost may or may not be significantly higher” and said it couldn’t estimate how much any future claims made against the company would cost.

The disclosures came in the annual accounts for News Group Newspapers, filed on Friday with Companies House.

The accounts show The Sun lost £67.9m in the 12 months to 30 June 2019. That was down from a loss of £91.1m in 2018.

News Group Newspapers is ultimately owned by Rupert Murdoch through his company News Corp. News Group said in accounts that News Corp “has committed to provide financial support” until at least March 2021.

Revenue rose by 4.4% to £419.9m at News Group Newspapers last year, boosted by a £39.5m payment made by a partner to end a betting deal. The company said digital advertising also showed “strong growth” but warned the wider news business remains “challenging”.

Sales of The Sun fell by 8% last year to an average of 1.3m per day and sales of The Sun on Sunday dropped by 9% to 1.1m.

However, both performed better than the wider market and The Sun grew its newspaper market share in the UK to 35.5% last year. The Sun, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in November, remains the UK’s best-selling daily paper.

The Sun reached 32.8m people across the UK through print and digital, the company said, up from 29.2m in 2018. The company said internal data showed it reached 113m people around the world through its website.