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Telegraph returns government furlough money after subscriptions hit 500,000

Posted on: June 9, 2020 by Mariella Brown

Telegraph Media Group will be returning the government furlough money it has received after the group announced the business has remained profitable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The publisher saw a growth in new subscription of more than 200% in March and after reaching 500,000 subscribers two weeks ago, is now halfway to its goal of 1m paying subscriptions by 2023.

A statement by the publisher of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph said that the short-term precautions taken to protect the business have now ceased.

The Telegraph announced in April it was placing 90 non-editorial staff on the government worker retention scheme until the end of May, citing a reduction in advertising revenue due to the pandemic. 

The group said it stopped participating in the government furlough scheme on May 31 and will be paying back the money the business claimed from April to HMRC.

All non-editorial staff, including those previously put on a four-day week, have now returned to a five-day week and all staff are returning to full salary. The statement added that all staff that worked in May with a reduced salary and working hours in May will be recompensed for lost earnings.  

Nick Hugh, CEO, Telegraph Media Group, said: “Following the short term prudent measures we made, all staff have now returned to a 5 day week and we will also reimburse HMRC the full amount given to the company as part of the furlough scheme.

“Whilst, like many other businesses, revenues and profits have been hit significantly, the business has remained profitable and cash generative throughout the period.

“Our subscription strategy goes from strength to strength which is testament to our outstanding journalism.” 

The move follows the decision by the Spectator magazine to return furlough money last week after citing a strong rise in subscriptions during the coronavirus crisis. The publication, which is also owned by the Barclay Brothers, announced the decision in a statement by chairman Andrew Neil that “contrary to our earlier fears, we did not need the furlough money to survive”.

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