Incoming SPH CEO is no stranger to the company

Mr Ng Yat Chung, 55, the former chief executive of Neptune Orient Lines, will be appointed SPH's executive director on July 1 and assume the post of CEO on Sept 1.
Mr Ng Yat Chung, 55, the former chief executive of Neptune Orient Lines, will be appointed SPH's executive director on July 1 and assume the post of CEO on Sept 1.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

He joined board as independent director last year, was involved in firm's growth plans and strategies

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will have a new chief executive officer from Sept 1, the media and property firm announced yesterday.

Mr Ng Yat Chung, 55, who is currently a board director, will take over from Mr Alan Chan Heng Loon, 64, who is retiring after 15 years at SPH.

Mr Ng, a former chief of defence force and who was with Temasek Holdings, will be appointed executive director on July 1 and assume the post of CEO on Sept 1.

He joined the SPH board in August last year as an independent director. He chairs the board risk committee. He is also a member of the executive and the remuneration committees.

Mr Ng, the former chief executive of Neptune Orient Lines, stayed on as special adviser up to yesterday. He takes the helm at SPH at a challenging time for the company's traditional media business.

While the latest quarterly results showed only a 1.2 per cent dip in net profit, recurring earnings from day-to-day operations were 22.2 per cent lower.

But Mr Ng is confident of prospects, noting: "The media landscape is rapidly evolving with technological convergence in the digital age.

  • Ready for the challenge ahead

  • Mr Ng on the media business

    "SPH is a strong media company. You have quality journalism, you have strong media content, but traditional print revenues are declining. We need to find ways to monetise the very strong capabilities that we have, and so that's the challenge... I fully recognise that in the media business, people are its assets."

    Mr Ng on how his experience at shipping line  Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) may be relevant to his new role at SPH

    "There is no industry today that is not vulnerable to disruption. I've had the responsibility of trying to turn around NOL. So I think the principles of business are similar... and I think my experience is in trying to manage a company facing significant changes which I believe could be helpful. ''

    Mr Ng on the sale of NOL to its new parent, French player, CMA CGM, which announced strong results recently

    "Let's recall what was the reason why we decided to do a deal. Because we say that we're too small so we are better off combining with somebody bigger. By being part of CMA CGM, APL (the container shipping arm of NOL) is able to achieve that.

    Second thing that we are able to do which APL is not able to do on its own is to access the new businesses. CMA CGM is much bigger. They have a lot of services and presence in markets that APL on its own does not have.

    Third, one of the benefits of combining two companies is synergies because you don't need to have two offices in the same city, and by doing all this rationalisation of operations and footprint, we can take out a lot of fixed cost.

    The (NOL) shareholders got a fair, reasonable price. And in the process CMA CGM anchored their business in Singapore, they moved their headquarters from Hong Kong to Singapore and they brought in much more volume to Singapore. They agreed to operate APL as a separate brand; the company is now back to profitability.

    So I think all in all it's done, it's time for me to move on. Now my focus will be on SPH."

"There are vast opportunities that can be reaped despite these challenges facing us."

Recently, the company announced the acquisition of nursing home provider Orange Valley as part of plans to develop another business prong.

Mr Ng noted that as a board member, he had been involved in deliberations on SPH's growth plans and strategies, including its entry into the healthcare and private nursing home sector. He said he looked forward to working with the board to bring the company to a "new phase of growth".

Mr Ng said the company must continue to look for new avenues of expansion: "We should look at those that are relevant to us and be able to pursue them to support the growth of SPH."

He also noted that the management team is strong and that there is a strong growth plan at SPH. But he would take the time to get to know the business and the people and, together with the team, decide what is necessary to take the company forward.

Given the challenging environment, Mr Ng said managing costs is essential. But it is more important to look for growth. He emphasised that SPH is a robust media company with quality journalism and content. "We need to find ways to monetise the very strong capabilities that we have," he added.

Other changes announced yesterday included the retirement of deputy CEO Patrick Daniel. Mr Daniel, 63, will step down on Sept 1 but continue as a part-time consultant and assist Mr Ng in managing some SPH subsidiaries and projects.

Deputy CEO Anthony Tan, 44, will remain in the position, taking charge of both the English/Malay/ Tamil Media Group and the Chinese Media Group, among other responsibilities.

SPH independent director Andrew Lim will replace Mr Ng as the chairman of the board risk committee with effect from July 1.

 

SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang said he is confident that Mr Ng "will provide far-sighted and effective leadership... and will work closely with (SPH deputy CEO) Anthony Tan and the group management team to tap new ideas and initiatives to steer SPH to greater heights".

 

Outgoing CEO Mr Chan said that he has worked with Mr Ng previously and has known him for years.

"I find him eminently suitable to replace me and have full confidence that both Yat Chung and Anthony will do an excellent job in propelling SPH forward," he said.

The announcement was made after market trading ended. SPH shares closed at $3.30.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Incoming SPH CEO is no stranger to the company'. Print Edition | Subscribe