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SPH net profit falls 23% in FY19, to axe 5% of media staff

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) will cut 5 per cent of staff from its media group, it said on Thursday, as the company posted a 23.4 per cent decline in net profit for the full year ended Aug 31.

Full-year net profit fell to S$213 million from the same period a year earlier, largely due to the previous divestment of the treasury and investment portfolio into defensive, cash-yielding sectors.

Operating profit fell 12.2 per cent to S$187 million as operating revenue dipped 2.4 per cent to S$959 million.

Property revenue rose 22.3 per cent to S$297 million, due to asset acquisitions made during the year, but this was offset by a 12 per cent decline in media revenue to S$577 million.

Although total audience across the group's media platforms rose, total circulation revenue fell by 7.3 per cent or S$11 million.

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Total print advertising revenue fell 14.9 per cent or S$57 million as advertisers cut back on ad spend amid an uncertain macroeconomic outlook.

SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung said: "The media business continues to be challenged with the decline in print advertisement and circulation revenue. But we are seeing progress in our digital transformation strategy in terms of improved digital advertisement and circulation growth.

"The media segment is also investing in data analytics for better understanding of the audience and customers."

SPH, which publishes The Business Times, said it will be streamlining its media operations in line with a new integrated sales approach.

The restructuring will result in an approximate 5 per cent reduction in staff numbers in the media group. The exercise is expected to be completed within the current quarter and will incur retrenchment costs of approximately S$8 million.

SPH has informed the Ministry of Manpower and the NTUC about the exercise. Affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the staff union.

Mr Ng said: "The restructuring will enable us to deliver more effective solutions across various media platforms to meet the evolving demands of our advertising customers. We continue to invest in the newsrooms and digital media capabilities while remaining disciplined about cost. This restructuring exercise is necessary to enhance our operational efficiency and strengthen our position in this challenging economic and media environment. I would like to thank the union for its understanding and support through the exercise."

A final dividend of 6.5 Singapore cents per share, comprising a normal dividend of 5.5 Singapore cents per share and a special dividend of one Singapore cent per share, was declared.

These dividends will be paid on Dec 20. Together with the interim dividend of 5.5 Singapore cents, total dividend payout for FY2019 will be 12 Singapore cents.

Full-year earnings per share was S$0.13, down from S$0.17 in the last financial year.

Net asset value per share was S$2.16 as at Aug 31, up from S$2.12 as at Aug 31 last year.

SPH shares fell three Singapore cents or 1.39 per cent to S$2.13 on Thursday before the results were released.

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