Murdoch: Losses at UK newspapers will not be tolerated

Yesterday’s News Corp split announcement could spell big changes at The Times as Rupert Murdoch vowed losses would not be tolerated at any of the company’s print titles.

Times Newspapers Ltd, which also publishes The Sunday Times, managed to slash its losses by more than £30m over the last financial year but still reported an annual loss of £12m for the year to July 2011.

On the day News Corp confirmed it was splitting its publishing business – which includes the Times titles and The Sun – and entertainment operations into two separate companies, Murdoch was reported saying: ‘You’re not going to see any print losses tolerated anywhere. Each newspaper will be expected to pay its way.”

Times Newspapers has made a sharp turnaround in the past three years – in 2010 its losses stood £45m and in 2009 the figure was £88m.

But in an interview with News Corp’s Fox News yesterday, Murdoch appeared to distance himself from News Corp’s UK operations, saying he was much more ‘bullish’about the US.

He also dismissed speculation the company planned to renew its bid to buy the remaining shares in broadcaster BSkyB it does not already own, telling News Corp’s Fox News the company had ‘moved on in our own thinking from that”.

‘There were billions and billions of dollars, if Britain didn’t want them we’ve got good places to them here,’he said. ‘I’m much more bullish about America than I am about England.”

Asked if he was ‘pulling back’from the UK, he replied: ‘No, but I would be a lot more reluctant to invest in new things in Britain today than I would be here.”

He was later questioned on whether this was because of ‘what you had been through’in the UK, in reference to the hacking scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World.

‘No, not at all, just the English,’he responded.

Murdoch said he was also concerned over the future of the Euro, predicting that Europe was ‘in for a very long, tough haul and semi-recession, if not real recession, and I just hope we don’t get into that here,’adding: ‘We have got things to be very bullish about in this country [the US].”

Murdoch will be chairman of both companies but only chief executive of the entertainment business. The publishing business – which also include Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal and book publisher Harper Collins – accounts for about one tenth of News Corp’s profits.

The company has yet to announce who will lead the new publishing unit, but Murdoch said it was ‘highly unlikely’it would be his son Lachlan. News International chief executive Tom Mockridge is believed to among one of the favourites for the post.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Murdoch explained why he hadn’t named the head of the publishing unit. ‘Because I haven’t made up my mind and there’s no hurry,’he said.

‘We will be in this process working as exactly as we are today for approximately 12 months. Within that time, I will make my choice and make the announcement…Unless there’s something very extraordinary, I would think it would be internal.

‘We have a wonderful bunch of executives across the whole company. I have no lack of choice.’

He insisted he would be ‘very involved’with the publishing operations, but asked whether cost-cutting would be made, he said: ‘We are…It’s been announced a pretty full reorganization in Australia which will result in cuts.

‘There’s some reorganisation starting in Britain. But here at The Wall Street Journal, we will be as efficient as we can, of course, but I would see net-net around the world we will be increasing our numbers and increasing our costs, and hopefully increasing our revenues by more than that.’

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