SPH's move into student housing boosts revenues

Operating revenue came in marginally lower by 1.7 per cent at $254.3 million from $258.8 million in the previous year's corresponding quarter.
Operating revenue came in marginally lower by 1.7 per cent at $254.3 million from $258.8 million in the previous year's corresponding quarter.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Revenue from property - Singapore Press Holdings' largest profit segment and a steady one at that - rose 11.1 per cent to $68 million.

The segment recorded a 5.2 per cent jump in pre-tax profit, thanks to the initial $3.2 million in net operating income from its recently acquired student dormitory assets.

SPH chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung noted that the group has made progress in growing recurring income in the property segment, with the contribution from the British student housing.

Plans to grow the assets to a "sizeable platform" are on track.

SPH said it was actively reviewing an "extensive deal pipeline" with some in the advanced stage of negotiation.

"Demand for UK university education is expected to be sustained even after Brexit, as the UK is a popular destination for quality education for international students," said the company in a statement on its first-quarter earnings on Friday (Jan 11).

It acquired the portfolio of 14 purpose-built student accommodation buildings across six towns and cities in the United Kingdom for about $321 million in September from the Unite Group. The assets in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Huddersfield, Plymouth and Sheffield have a total capacity of 3,436 beds.

SPH noted that a fall in income after the partial divestment last August of the treasury and investment portfolio hit first-quarter earnings.

The media and property group noted: "The divestment was timely as SPH locked in gains and avoided losses on the portfolio during the recent financial market turbulence."

It has said that it will allocate proceeds into more yield-generating assets, chiefly in the property and digital business.


Net profit came in at $57.9 million for the three months to Nov 30, down 6.3 per cent.

Operating revenue dipped 1.7 per cent to $254.3 million on the back of lower print advertising turnover.

This was offset by contributions from the UK student accommodation portfolio.

The absence of retrenchment costs compared with the previous year led to operating costs dipping 7 per cent to $183.9 million. Accordingly, operating profit rose 7.6 per cent to $74.8 million.

Earnings per share stood at four cents, unchanged from a year earlier. Net asset value per share was $2.20, up from $2.13 as at Aug 31.

No dividend was recommended for the period, the same as last year.

Revenue for SPH's media business slipped 6.8 per cent to $162.1 million, while operating profit improved nearly 15 per cent, mainly due to the absence of retrenchment costs recognised over the same quarter last year.

Print ad revenue fell 7.2 per cent - the slowest rate of decline in four quarters: Display ads, which contribute the bulk of the revenue, fell 2.7 per cent; classified ads logged a sharp fall of 17.1 per cent; and newspaper ads slipped 7.2 per cent.

Digital ad revenue jumped 12.9 per cent, led by better performances from The Straits Times, The Business Times and Lianhe Zaobao, as well as efforts to improve offerings to advertisers.

Said Mr Ng: "The print side of the media business continues to experience headwinds even as we grew revenue from the digital side of the business."

The firm said the media business continues to pursue various digital initiatives and new partnerships as it seeks to enhance the products and improve audience engagement with better use of data analytics.

Revenue from the Others segment, including the aged care business, improved 2.6 per cent to $24.2 million.

The counter closed unchanged at $2.49 on Friday.