SPH to divest Mediacorp stakes for $18m

Last December, The New Paper revealed a new look and began to be distributed free-of-charge, going head- to-head with Today in the freesheet space.
Last December, The New Paper revealed a new look and began to be distributed free-of-charge, going head- to-head with Today in the freesheet space.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

Move follows Mediacorp decision to cease print edition of Today

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) plans to divest its 20 per cent stake in Mediacorp TV and 40 per cent holding in Mediacorp Press, the publisher of the Today newspaper, for $18 million, it said yesterday.

The proposed divestment follows Mediacorp's decision to stop the print edition of Today.

Incoming SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung, who assumes the role next Friday, said it would allow SPH to focus on its core media business.

"Free-to-air television is not core to SPH's business, and the divestment of the stake in Today follows Mediacorp's decision to turn it into a fully digital product," he said in a statement.

"This rationalisation will allow us to focus our energies on serving our audience and advertisers best through a suite of strong media products across the print, digital and radio platforms."

Mr Warren Fernandez, SPH's editor-in-chief of the English/ Malay/Tamil Media group, said: "The Straits Times and its sister papers, The New Paper and The Business Times, will redouble our efforts across our print, online and mobile platforms. We will not let up and will strive to ensure that readers in Singapore remain well served."

SPH CEO Alan Chan noted that Singapore Press Holdings has recouped its investment in Mediacorp Press and Mediacorp TV, after taking into account "the consideration of $18 million which we will receive from this transaction and the dividends paid to us over the years".

The deal is likely to be completed at the end of next month, and SPH expects to record a writedown of about $31 million in its books.

However, this follows the earlier announced sale of online classifieds business 701Search, on which SPH is expected to recognise a profit of about $150 million.

The deal comes 12 years after SPH bought the stakes as part of a media industry asset consolidation in 2005. SPH had then transferred a TV channel to Mediacorp and taken a 20 per cent stake in Mediacorp TV.

It also merged its free newspaper Streats with Today, and took a 40 per cent stake in Mediacorp Press.

In December last year, The New Paper revealed a new look and began to be distributed free-of- charge, going head-to-head with Today in the freesheet space.

As part of the deal announced yesterday, Mediacorp will also stop publishing any soft copy or computer-readable format of Today that has the look and feel of a hardcopy version of the newspaper for a period of five years.

Mediacorp said it will restructure Today to "better face the new digital-first media landscape".

The move follows Mediacorp's decision in April to launch a fully digital weekend edition.

Discontinuing Today's print edition means that about 40 roles become redundant, Mediacorp said.

It will explore options to redeploy the staff in these positions to other roles within the company. Where this is not possible, eligible staff will be offered severance packages and outplacement support.

Mr Desmond Choo, adviser to the Singapore Union of Broadcasting Employees, said on Facebook that it will work with Mediacorp and its members to ensure that they are reskilled and redeployed, or to help them with job placement, together with NTUC's e2i (Employment and Employability Institute).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'SPH to divest Mediacorp stakes for $18m'. Print Edition | Subscribe