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Anglicans dump News Corp. shares over hack scandal

The Church of England has sold its shares in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. over its handling of a phone hacking scandal at one of its newspapers.

Anglican leaders said in a statement Tuesday that they were not satisfied that News Corp. was likely to show a commitment to reform its business practices following evidence of illegal eavesdropping at the defunct News of the World newspaper.

Church official Andrew Brown said the decision to sell the 1.9 million pounds (US$3 million) in News Corp. shares followed a year of inconclusive dialogue between News Corp. executives and members of the church's ethical investment committee.

"Our decision to disinvest was not taken lightly and follows a year of continuous dialogue with the company, during which the (ethical investment committee) put forward a number of recommendations around how corporate governance structures at News Corporation could be improved," Brown said. "However the (committee) does not feel that the company has brought about sufficient change and we have accepted its advice to disinvest."

News Corp. declined to comment.

Murdoch is expected to address shareholders at News Corp.'s annual general meeting Oct. 3, amid rising calls for the 81-year-old tycoon to quit or be ousted as chairman and chief executive.

The Church of England has three investment arms holding assets worth 8 billion pounds ($12.5 billion). Profits from those investments are used to finance 12,000 parishes, 16,000 churches, 8,500 priests and 10,000 other staff.

The church's ethical investment committee previously has recommended divestments from companies involved in military products and services, pornography, alcoholic drinks, gambling, tobacco, human embryonic cloning and high interest-rate lending.

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