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SPH restructures media sales and magazines operations, 140 jobs cut

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) will shed about 140 jobs, or 5 per cent of the media group’s headcount, as it restructures its media sales and magazine operations.

The exercise comes as the group seeks to transform its media business and as it grapples with declining advertising revenue owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In a filing to the Singapore Exchange on Tuesday, SPH said that 140 staff from the media solutions division and SPH Magazines will be affected. The retrenchment costs of about S$8 million will be recognised in Q4 FY20.

Last year, SPH – which owns publications such as The Business Times - embarked on a review of its media business to offer advertisers more effective marketing solutions by taking on an integrated sales approach across its various platforms and titles.

Aside from introducing self-service options to tailor campaigns for advertisers, it has also ramped up efforts to share content across its print, digital and voice platforms. “The streamlining of operations for greater efficiency and synergy has led to the redundancy of some roles,” said SPH in the filing.

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Chief executive of SPH, Ng Yat Chung, said: "Subscriptions and readership of our news titles have increased since the onset of Covid-19. However, the economic downturn has significantly impacted our advertising revenue. A more integrated approach of producing and selling our content across our various platforms will allow us to deal more efficiently and effectively with the new level of demand we are seeing from our advertisers and audience."

The Ministry of Manpower, the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU) and NTUC have been informed, SPH said. Affected staff will receive compensation on the terms that the union has agreed on. SPH has also been working closely with the union and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to ensure that affected staff receive the help and support they require during this period, the media group said. This will be in areas such as employability training, career coaching and job placement.

David Teo, president of CMPU, said: "SPH management informed CMPU in advance of its restructuring exercise. Since then, CMPU has worked closely with SPH management to ensure the restructuring exercise was conducted in line with guidelines stated in NTUC’s Fair Retrenchment Framework as well as the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment. CMPU and SPH management jointly reviewed the selection criteria to ensure that the Singaporean Core within the company is safeguarded as far as possible." He added that the union negotiated for a fair compensation package for the affected employees.

SPH has reviewed costs, reduced discretionary spending and introduced salary cuts for senior management since the pandemic struck earlier this year. In March, it announced its directors – including Mr Ng – and senior management would take voluntary pay cuts of 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

In a corporate presentation uploaded on SGX on Tuesday, SPH said that the pandemic has had "significant adverse impact" across all its business segments - media, retail, purpose-built student accommodation and aged care - and that recovery would take time. However, it also highlighted that the group has a healthy balance sheet, with a healthy cash position. In the media business, while ad revenue has been "severely impacted", circulation year-to-date for FY20 is up 9.8 per cent year-on-year.

Shares in SPH closed at S$1.11 on Tuesday, down one Singapore cent, before the announcement was made.

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