The company that runs the Sing Pao Daily News applied for a review and reduction of the fines it received for not paying its staff, the District Court heard yesterday, because it was in dire financial straits. The cash-strapped company was originally fined HK$228,000 in August for 45 counts of failing to pay or promptly pay wages, annual leave pay and Mandatory Provident Fund contributions to editorial and production staff between April last year and January. The fine, due this month, has not been paid. Barrister Albert Poon, for Sing Pao Newspaper Management, made the application, in which the court heard he hoped the fines could be reduced to HK$45,000. Mr Poon said the company was not 'an employer without conscience'. It was unable to pay the fines. In support of his application, the financial controller, Lo Mei-lan, who testified concerning the company's financial status, said only HK$80,000 was left in the company's bank account after the recent issuing of the 11 salary cheques. She said that despite the company having monthly revenue of HK$4.2 million, it suffered a HK$2.4 million loss every month after paying operating costs, such as printing fees and staff salaries. Since 2004, the company had been running at an annual deficit of HK$30 million. She said that if the original fine was imposed, the company might not be able to pay its staff. The court heard the only asset the company had was its printing machinery, worth more than HK$13 million, which had been out of order since it was moved to new premises in Tseung Kwan O last December. Ms Lo said the company initially thought the move would generate more income, but now it was unable to pay the HK$1 million needed to repair the machinery. As a result it had been paying another company HK$70,000 a month to do its printing. Ms Lo said the company was in debt and has been borrowing money to continue operating. 'The [company] loans are three times the company assets,' she said. But prosecutor Kathy Cheung said the company had the ability to pay the original fine as it had settled an outstanding salary bill of HK$21,000 in August. However, it had yet to pay a HK$29,000 fine that had been imposed in May. The decision of the review has been adjourned to October 30 before Deputy District Court Judge Merinda Chow Yin-chu.