SPH let go 5% media staff as net profit slumps 23% while Ng still paid in millions

Singapore Press Holdings CEO Ng Yat Chung address reporters at a media conference on 11 October (Source: Yahoo Singapore).

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) released its full year financial results ended on 31 Aug yesterday (17 Oct). It reported an annual decline of 23.4 per cent in net profit and announced that 5 per cent of the staff from its media group will be retrenched.

The full-year net profit fell to $213 million from $278 million last year. Operating profit however, fell 12.2 per cent from $213 million to $187 million with total revenue dipping from $1 billion to $978 million.

A large part of its net profit contribution outside of the $187 million operating profit came from fair value “paper” change on investment properties amounting to $82.4 million.

SPH’s media segment was hit hard with revenue dropping $79 million (12%) from $656 million last FY to $577 million in FY2019. Overall, print advertisement revenue decreased by $57 million (14.9%) while its digital advertisement revenue reportedly grew by $1.5 million.

Circulation revenue also fell $11 million (7.3%) as daily average newspaper print sales decreased by 68,855 copies (12.2%), while daily average newspaper digital sales increased by 40,351 copies (19.3%). The decline in SPH’s media revenue was cushioned by reduction in staff costs.

SPH CEO 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.”

Meanwhile, SPH said it intends to retrench about 130 people (5%) in the media group as part of its “restructuring” exercise.

Ng said, “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.”

SPH’s union, of course, is affiliated to NTUC. SPH said it has already informed the Ministry of Manpower and the NTUC about its retrenchement exercise.

Mr David Teo, the President of Creative Media and Publishing Union, said, “Management will also engage a counsellor to help those who need a listening ear.” He said the union will also help affected staff with job profiling and offer other employment-related tools. Union members can also tap on the Union Training Assistance Programme to fund their training.

Coaches from NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute will also be at SPH’s premises to provide advice and guidance to the retrenched staff.

It’s not known if after all these advice, career guidance and training, the retrenched staff would still end up driving Grab to make ends meet.

SPH led by former Chief of Defence Force Ng Yat Chung

Since the former Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General (NS) Ng was named the new CEO of SPH in May 2017, SPH’s share price has been sliding some 35% from around $3.30 in May 2017 to yesterday’s closing of $2.13 (17 Oct).

Still, he managed to get a descent pay package of $1.9 million with an additional $900,000 worth of share options, according to SPH’s latest annual report. Additionally, he also sits on the board of other Temasek-related companies like Singapore Power.

Previously, Ng was heading the Temasek-linked Neptune Orient Lines before it was eventually sold to French Shipping Giant CMA after years of consecutive losses. But within a quarter after taking over, CMA turned NOL back to a $26 million profit in the first quarter of 2017.

Looking through past annual reports of NOL, Ng earned at least US$2 million a year for his work there:

• 2011 – Between US$2,150,000 to US$2,299,999
• 2012 – Between US$2,500,000 to US$2,699,999
• 2013 – Between US$2,500,000 to US$2,699,999
• 2014 – Between US$2,300,000 to US$2,499,999
• 2015 – Between US$2,300,000 to US$2,499,999

While SPH continues to retrench its “foot soldiers”, Ng continues to earn his million-dollar salary despite his dismal performance at SPH.

Perhaps Ng’s remuneration at NOL and SPH is inversely benchmarked to how low their share price can hit ?

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