SPH retrenches 140 from sales and magazines units amid downturn

Affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the Creative Media and Publishing Union. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will be laying off 140 employees from its media sales and magazines operations as it addresses the impact Covid-19 has had on advertising revenues.

The retrenchments will affect about 5 per cent of its Media Group's headcount, and is part of its media transformation road map, it said in a statement yesterday.

Affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the Creative Media and Publishing Union.

SPH has also been working closely with the union and e2i - NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute which matches workers to jobs - to ensure that they get the help and support they need during this period, the statement said.

SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung said that the economic downturn has significantly impacted SPH's advertising revenue, although subscriptions and readership of the group's news titles have increased since the onset of Covid-19.

Digital circulation of its news titles, including The Straits Times, has grown 52.6 per cent so far this year, compared with a year ago, boosting overall circulation of these titles by 9.8 per cent in the same period. Newsroom staff and journalists are not affected by this exercise.

Mr Ng said: "A more integrated approach of producing and selling our content across our various platforms will allow us to deal more efficiently and effectively with the new level of demand we are seeing from our advertisers and audience."

Besides media, SPH is in property, purpose-built student accommodation and nursing homes. It owns malls such as Paragon, Clementi Mall and the Rail Mall.

Last year, the company started a review of its media business to provide advertisers with more effective marketing solutions by adopting an integrated sales approach across its different platforms and titles, the statement said.

SPH had brought together the specialist appeal of its magazine titles and radio audiences with the broader mass market audiences of its newspaper titles, and rolled out self-service options for advertisers to customise their campaigns.

SPH has also intensified its efforts to share its content resources across its print, digital and voice platforms, the statement said.

It added: "The streamlining of operations for greater efficiency and synergy has led to the redundancy of some roles."

SPH said yesterday that it has exited its magazine business in Malaysia, and that Cleo and Young Parents magazines have ceased publication. The retrenchment exercise will cost about $8 million.

Last year, the company shed 130 jobs from the group's media solutions division, magazines and smaller subsidiaries to rein in costs. In 2017, it trimmed 130 jobs, which affected newsrooms and its Integrated Marketing Division.

Asked if there will be more layoffs, an SPH spokesman said: "There are none planned, and the focus is on executing the transformation plan to make sure the business continues to be sustainable. However, it will also be dependent on when the economy recovers."

The company noted that since the Covid-19 pandemic, it has reviewed its costs, cut back on discretionary spending and instituted pay cuts for senior management.

In March, SPH announced that its directors, including the CEO, and senior management would take voluntary pay cuts of 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

SPH shares closed down 0.89 per cent at $1.11 yesterday, before the announcement was made.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2020, with the headline SPH retrenches 140 from sales and magazines units amid downturn. Subscribe