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SPH to trim staff by up to 10% over two years

New Paper and My Paper to be merged into a free daily tabloid from December
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 05:50
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Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will reduce up to 10 per cent of its workforce over the next two years and merge two of its newspapers into a free daily tabloid from December as it adapts to tough business conditions, the media and property group announced on Monday.

Singapore

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) will reduce up to 10 per cent of its workforce over the next two years and merge two of its newspapers into a free daily tabloid from December as it adapts to tough business conditions, the media and property group announced on Monday.

SPH, whose publications include The Business Times, had a headcount of 4,182 employees as at end-August, suggesting a reduction of up to 420. The right-sizing exercise will take place through attrition, retirement, non-renewal of contracts, out-placement and retrenchment. Fewer than 30 people have been identified for retrenchment as part of the current exercise.

SPH said it will work with the relevant unions to ensure that fair terms are given to affected staff and extend to them the necessary help to support them in their transition.

The company will also merge the free English-and-Chinese language tabloid My Paper into the English-only The New Paper (TNP). Approval for the merger was received from the Ministry of Communications and Information on Monday.

TNP has average daily sales of more than 60,000 at a newsstand price of 70 Singapore cents a copy, while My Paper has a circulation of about 250,000, SPH said. BT understands that the revamped TNP will remain English-only, and will be distributed free from Mondays to Saturdays. It will have a circulation of up to 300,000 at existing distribution points, including MRT stations, and will also be available online.

The only other major English-language newspaper in Singapore that is distributed free is Mediacorp's Today, in which SPH holds a 40 per cent stake.

Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of SPH's English/Malay/Tamil Media group, said: "The New Paper currently has daily average sales of more than 60,000 which means over 60,000 people are prepared to pay 70 cents each day for the paper. Merging TNP with My Paper, making it free and increasing its circulation to up to 300,000 copies, is a bold decision to serve our readers with a strong product and with revamped content."

The proposed changes are the result of a sweeping review by SPH of its core media business, which is in the midst of a years-long revenue slide.

SPH chief executive Alan Chan said in a statement: "We have done a comprehensive business review to strengthen our position in a tough economic and media environment. Market conditions will remain difficult with the continuing disruption of the media industry."

"We have had to take difficult decisions on cost-control measures to improve operational efficiency. We will continue to innovate and invest in our media products to stay ahead and relevant. At the same time, we will grow our business adjacencies to diversify revenue streams and maximise stakeholder value," Mr Chan added.

In its statement on Monday, SPH said: "As a result of this review, SPH has made several transformative changes, including the formation of a new integrated marketing division (IMD) that provides advertisers with a more effective and multi-platform reach to their audiences.

"The new IMD, which was formed in September through the merger of the company's print, digital, radio and out-of-home sales teams, will deliver optimised advertising solutions using data analytics for better audience insights."

SPH last Friday announced a 17.5 per cent decline in net profit to S$265.3 million for the year ended Aug 31, 2016. Media revenue fell 7.6 per cent to S$834.2 million, dragging operating revenue to a 4.5 per cent decline to S$1.12 billion. SPH also incurred a S$28.4 million impairment during the year as a result of weakness in the magazine business.

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