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SPH to weather Covid-19 crisis, to benefit from investment in data collection

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) said in a business update on Tuesday that its "resilient finances" will withstand the impact of Covid-19.

This comes as it has a strong balance sheet with a healthy cash buffer of more than S$800 million. It has also improved gearing ratios with cost management, and has no loans due till June 2021, said SPH, which owns The Business Times

It also has a "disciplined approach to capital allocation" with regular reviews of non-core businesses and investments. 

Meanwhile, its businesses in the media, purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) and retail segments are "well-placed" despite the virus outbreak, it said. 

Its media segment's digital subscriptions through news tablets grew 8 per cent in April month-on-month. It has also partnered Google to grow digital advertising revenue and subscriptions.

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Its refunds of £4.6 million (S$8 million) from its PBSA business was at the lower end of the expected range, and it has achieved 69 per cent of the next academic year's (AY20/21) target revenue. Furthermore, the universities in the United Kingdom are to gradually reopen as lockdown restrictions ease. 

On the retail front, the initial decline in footfall for its assets in Australia is slowing with the gradual lifting of lockdown measures. 

SPH also said that first-party data, which is data it collects directly, is important for the firm to deliver an “enjoyable digital experience” and “make relevant content recommendations” that will translate to higher reader engagement.

While the firm also engages the services of vendors who collect third-party data by embedding their cookies in their clients’ websites (including SPH’s), more browsers are blocking third-party cookies on the back of privacy issues.

In light of this, SPH said it has been investing in its own data collection, processing and activation capabilities in the last few years. It therefore stands to benefit when advertisers that lose access to third-party data turn to publishers with first-party data, it added.

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