SPH to slash workforce by 130 employees in media group, net profit for full year fell by 23 per cent from last year

Approximately 130 employees, or around 5 per cent, of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Ltd’s workforce in the media group will be laid off by the end of next month.

In a statement on Thu (17 Oct), SPH said that the sizing down of staff numbers will be part of the company’s restructuring efforts, following a fall in print revenue and an “uncertain macroeconomic outlook” which has impacted consumer demand and spending by advertisers.

While the company said that it intends to “streamline its media and magazines operations” by “selling its newspaper and magazine titles together not only across print but also digital, voice and outdoor formats”, SPH assured that it will “continue to invest in the newsrooms and digital media capabilities while remaining disciplined about cost”.

“SPH will also invest in solutions that will make its print advertising more interactive and trackable. It is also formulating more hyperlocal advertising solutions, using a combination of offline and online media that will make a more lasting impact on potential consumers.

“This has been happening for a while, and SPH will intensify efforts to make content liquid across audience-centric platforms. This ultimately will drive subscriber and advertising revenue,” the statement read.

SPH said that the restructuring exercise is slated to be completed within the first quarter of FY19/20.

The company added that it has informed the Ministry of Manpower and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) regarding the restructuring exercise. Affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the staff union.

SPH chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung said that the restructuring exercise is aimed at enhancing the company’s “operational efficiency and strengthen our position in this challenging economic and media environment”.

“The restructuring will enable us to deliver more effective solutions across various media platforms to meet the evolving demands of our advertising customers.

“I would like to thank the union for its understanding and support through the exercise,” he added, noting that SPH has been “working closely” with NTUC and e2i to ensure that affected staff “receive the help and support they require during this period”.

Such support includes on-site career guidance, employment placement services, as well as professional counselling support.

President of the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU) David Teo said, following SPH’s decision to lay off the 130 employees: “The SPH management has shared with the union the rationale of the exercise and support they will be providing to affected staff.

“We have worked with them on the compensation packages and the necessary assistance to ensure that the whole process will be handled in the best way possible,” he added.

SPH net profit fell by 23.4 per cent for full year due to declining print revenue

SPH also announced on Thu a 23.4 per cent fall in its net profit for the year.

The company’s net profit saw a decrease from the S$278.38 mil recorded last year to the S$213.21 mil for the full-year ending 31 Aug this year.

Operating revenue also fell by 2.4 per cent from S$982.56 mil in 2018 to YoY to S$925.3 mil in 2019.

Source; Data from SPH, chart by TOC

SPH’s media revenue decreased by 12 per cent this year to $576.9 million, with print advertisement revenue having recorded a fall of 14.9 per cent or S$57 mil, and total circulation revenue having declined by S$11 mil or 7.3 per cent.

Newspaper digital advertisement revenue, however, increased by six per cent or S$1.5 mil.

Daily average newspaper digital sales marked an increase of 19.3 per cent or 40,351 copies, in comparison to the daily average newspaper print sales which decreased by 12.2 per cent or 68,855 copies.

The company’s acquisition of overseas assets, however, contributed the 22.3 per cent increase in revenue of its property group’s revenue, comprising S$36.4 mil from the UK PBSA portfolio, S$11.4m from Figtree in Australia and S$4.9m from The Rail Mall.

This year, SPH’s property arm recorded a revenue of S$296.5 mil, compared to S$54.1 mil last year, which is purportedly its best performance since 2012.

SPH CEO Ng said that while “the media business continues to be challenged with the decline in print advertisement and circulation revenue”, the company is “seeing progress in our digital transformation strategy in terms of improved digital [advertising and circulation growth]”.