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SPH net profit down 19.7% for FY2018, but up 2.4% excluding one-offs

MEDIA and property group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) on Monday reported a 19.7 per cent fall in net profit for the year ended Aug 31, due partly to the absence of the one-off gain from divestment of a joint venture in FY2017.

Net profit attributable to shareholders fell S$69 million to S$281.1 million. Excluding one-offs, net profit improved 2.4 per cent.

Earnings per share were 17 Singapore cents, compared to 22 Singapore cents in the previous financial year.

The group has proposed a final dividend of seven Singapore cents per share, comprising a normal dividend of three Singapore cents per share and a special dividend of four Singapore cents per share.

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Together with an interim dividend of six Singapore cents, the total dividend payout for FY2018 is 13 Singapore cents.

The group, which owns newspapers such as The Business Times, said it will continue investing in digital initiatives for its media business, as well as growing its aged care business locally and overseas in the medium term.

Group operating profit held firm at S$206.3 million despite declines in operating revenue, cushioned by cost savings. Full-year operating revenue was down S$50 million or 4.8 per cent to S$982.6 million.

Higher investment income of S$115.2 million boosted performance across all reporting segments by 24 per cent, to S$321.5 million.

The group's core media business remains profitable, with its decline in revenue moderating. Media revenue fell S$69.6 million or 9.6 per cent in FY2018.

The property segment saw revenue falling a marginal 0.7 per cent or S$1.7 million to S$242.4 million, but remains the largest contributor to group profit, with an operating profit of S$151.8 million.

Revenue from other businesses rose 34 per cent or S$21.4 million to S$84.4 million, led by contributions from the aged care business.

Said SPH chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung: "Print continues to experience headwinds, but we are seeing encouraging results from our efforts to digitise the core media business. We are making good progress in growing our property, digital portfolio and aged care businesses, including our recently acquired assets in the purpose-built student accommodation sector."

In September, SPH made its first investment in purpose-built student accommodation with a S$321 million acquisition in the United Kingdom. In its results press release on Monday, SPH said it will build upon this "to develop a sizeable platform with strong domain expertise and on-ground capabilities, and may also enter other sectors in time".

SPH closed down one Singapore cent or 0.38 per cent at S$2.62 on Monday before the results were released.