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SPH posts first full year net loss of S$83.7m for FY20

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) on Tuesday posted its first ever net loss of S$83.7 million for the full year ended Aug 31, a reversal from a net profit of $213.2 million a year ago, as Covid-19 "severely disrupted" all business segments.

The company, which publishes The Business Times, took a hit from non-cash fair value losses of S$232 million - mostly on its malls and purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) assets.

The valuation of its retail malls fell by S$196.5 million and while that of its PBSA assets fell by S$31.9 million.

These fair value losses were partially mitigated by S$68.5 million received from government schemes, including the jobs support scheme.

Operating revenue for the year declined 9.8 per cent to S$865.7 million, while media advertisement revenue fell 31.4 per cent.

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Operating profit fell 41 per cent to S$110.2 million.

Total costs were 6.8 per cent higher at S$844.4 million in part due to the increased operational costs of running an expanded Reit (real estate investment trust) and PBSA portfolio, property tax rebates passed on to tenants, and retrenchment costs.

For the full year, the media business shrank 22.8 per cent to S$445.1 million due to a 32.9 per cent decline in newspaper print advertisement revenue. Loss before taxation for the segment was S$11.4 million, compared with a profit of S$54.7 million for FY19, after taking into account retrenchment costs of S$16.6 million.

Revenue from the property business rose 10.3 per cent to S$327.2 million, boosted by the acquisition of the Westfield Marion mall and the Student Castle PBSA portfolio. Loss before taxation was S$75.8 million, compared with a profit of S$263 million in FY19, due to the fair value losses.

Revenue from the Others segment grew 8.7 per cent to S$93.3 million, aided by higher sales of personal protective equipment from its aged care business. The segment posted a pre-tax profit of S$1.9 million partly due to the S$25.7 million divestment gain on the Media Centre.

Said SPH chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung in a press statement: "All our major business segments were severely disrupted by Covid-19. Our media business is badly affected by the collapse in advertising. However, the 9.4 per cent growth in circulation numbers from the success of our news tablet digital product and higher readership is a bright spot.

"We are intensifying our digitalisation efforts to transform the news content business in response to evolving demands from our audience. We will continue to take a prudent and disciplined approach to liquidity and capital management to weather the Covid-19 crisis with all our stakeholders."

A final dividend of 1 Singapore cent per share was declared, versus last year's 5.5 cents. SPH had also paid a special dividend of 1 cent for FY19. The dividend is payable on Dec 18. Together with the interim dividend of 1.5 cents, the total dividend payout for FY20 will be 2.5 cents.

SPH shares closed flat at S$1.05 on Tuesday before the results were released.

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