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SPH to step up transformation process to seek growth

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) will step up the move to transform its business model by embarking on wide-ranging projects to rejuvenate, reinvent and reposition itself in order to seek new growth areas, chairman Lee Boon Yang said, citing challenges posed by social media and digital advertising disruptions.

The group will press on to strengthen its core media business with quality content, strategic partnerships and technological innovations, Dr Lee said on Friday at the group's annual general meeting at the SPH News Centre.

"For the core media business which remains a very important part of our business strategy, because we are first and foremost a media company, we will continue to re-engineer ourselves to deal with the digital competition."

He said the newsrooms have been re-organised to ensure they are more digital ready.

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"Today our newsroom operates on the basis of 24-hour news cycle and digital is our first priority. So we will continue to reshape and strengthen our media platform so that we will be able to meet the changing demands of our advertisers and audience."

Dr Lee said this in response to a question from a shareholder on what the group's strategy is to restore its recurring earnings to higher profitability.

The media business has been under scrutiny as its overall earnings fell.

The group's net profit in fiscal 2017 jumped 32 per cent to S$350.1 million on the back of the sale of an online classifieds business, but operating revenue shrank by 8.2 per cent to S$1 billion. The group in October accelerated a previously announced round of job cuts to deal with the challenges in its media business.

Dr Lee cited the example of the merger of Chinese dailies Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao, which was announced on Friday as part of ramped up efforts to raise productivity and put digital content first.

"We have also formed an integrated marketing division back in October 2016 in order to enable our marketing team to go out to advertisers so that they can offer to our advertisers a complete suite of service...and in this manner I think we will be able to regain some of our lost grounds in the competition for advertising dollars," he added.

At the AGM, shareholders gave the green light for all the resolutions, one of which was for a final and special dividend of 3 and 6 Singapore cents per share, respectively. Including the interim dividend of 6 Singapore cents paid, SPH's total dividend for the financial year ended Aug 31, 2017 (FY2017) is 15 Singapore cents versus 18 Singapore cents in FY2016.

Shares of SPH, which is the parent company of The Business Times and The Straits Times, closed unchanged at S$2.76.