'Times' losses balloon to £29m, say accounts

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The Independent Online

Losses at The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers nearly doubled to £28.65m last year, according to recently filed company accounts.

Losses at The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers nearly doubled to £28.65m last year, according to recently filed company accounts.

Times Newspapers Ltd, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire, reported that turnover increased marginally to £377m for the financial year to the end of June 2003, but losses ballooned from the £16.3m seen in the previous year.

The newspaper group refused to provide any explanation of the figures. A spokeswoman for News International, News Corp's UK business, said: "We have reported true and faithful statements as we are required to do by law."

The losses, however, are widely seen as evidence of the amounts Mr Murdoch's empire is prepared to spend to maintain a price advantage for The Times in the quality newspaper market.

The costs of selling and marketing the newspapers, which Mr Murdoch bought in 1981, rose 13 per cent to £35.8m. The accounts for the year to the end of June also showed that the company held back on a dividend payout, after £108m was shared out in 2002. The company has net liabilities of £43.9m, but News Corp Investments, a subsidiary of News Corp, has "confirmed its intention of providing continual financial support".

Times Newspapers Holdings, the parent company of The Times and The Sunday Times which also includes a film leasing business, reported zero profits for the same year. This compared with a pre-tax profit of £108.3m in the previous year.

The figures do not include the costs of the launch last autumn, of the "compact" version of The Times. The move is likely to have added more than £10m to costs. Circulation of The Times has steadied at about 658,000.

Accounts for News Corp reveal that Mr Murdoch has undertaken a reorganisation of his assets as the group moves its primary listing to the US.

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