SPH to shed 130 jobs to rein in costs

CEO Ng Yat Chung says the restructuring will enable SPH to deliver more effective integrated solutions across various media platforms. ST FILE PHOTO
CEO Ng Yat Chung says the restructuring will enable SPH to deliver more effective integrated solutions across various media platforms. ST FILE PHOTO

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will be trimming its workforce by about 130 employees as it continues to streamline operations amid the digital transformation of its core media business.

Those affected are from the group's media solutions division (MSD), magazines and smaller subsidiaries. They include non-contract renewals and retirements as well as 71 employees who will be retrenched. SPH newsrooms were not affected by the cut.

SPH chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung said yesterday: "The restructuring will enable us to deliver more effective integrated solutions across various media platforms to meet the evolving demands of our advertising customers as well as audiences. We continue to invest in the newsrooms and digital media capabilities while remaining disciplined about costs."

He added: "This restructuring exercise is necessary to enhance our operational efficiency and strengthen our position in this challenging economic and media environment."

SPH is restructuring its media and magazine operations to enable integrated selling across all platforms - print, digital, radio and outdoors. As the magazine business had always operated as a subsidiary with its own sales and support teams, its integration with the group's newspaper business will result in duplication.

Mr David Teo, president of the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU), said: "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."

  • Earnings decline 23% for full year

  • Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) yesterday reported a 23.4 per cent decline in net profit for the full year ended Aug 31 to $213.2 million compared with a year ago.

    This was largely due to the absence of a one-off gain from the sale of the treasury and investment portfolio as it redeploys the capital to invest in steadier, more predictable defensive, yield-generating assets.

    Operating profit fell 12.2 per cent to $186.9 million as operating revenue dipped 2.4 per cent to $959.3 million, with the improved property revenue mitigating media's decline. Property revenue rose 22.3 per cent to $296.5 million, due to acquisitions of UK student housing assets and Figtree Grove in Australia.

    Media revenue fell 12 per cent to $576.9 million. Total print advertisement revenue decreased by 14.9 per cent, or $57 million, and total circulation revenue declined by $11 million, or 7.3 per cent.

    SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung said: "The media business continues to be challenged with the decline in print advertisement and circulation revenue. But we are seeing progress in our digital transformation strategy in terms of improved digital advertisement and circulation growth."

    The media segment is also investing in data analytics to better understand the audience and customers.

    Digital business showed healthy growth with innovative products like the news tablet, which saw the Chinese newspapers attracting more than 10,000 sign-ups, of which three-quarters were new subscribers.

    The Malay flagship, Berita Harian, attracted a strong response too, with about 700 sign-ups. Daily average newspaper digital copies posted an increase of 19.3 per cent, while newspaper digital ad revenue grew 6 per cent.

    The board has proposed a final dividend of 6.5 cents per share, comprising a normal dividend of 5.5 cents per share and a special dividend of one cent per share for FY2019. These will be paid on Dec 20. Together with the interim dividend of 5.5 cents, total dividend payout for FY2019 will be 12 cents per share.

    Mr Ng said: "As the base of recurring income improves, the group will be able to pay dividend in a more sustainable way. This means special dividend is expected to decrease and dividend payout ratio will be below 100 per cent."

    SPH shares fell three cents or 1.39 per cent to $2.13 yesterday before the results were released.

CMPU will partner NTUC's e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) to have e2i's employability coaches at the company's premises to provide advice and assistance to the affected staff. The union will also arrange for affected employees to access the NTUC-Korn Ferry Advance service, which will provide them with job-profiling and other employment-related tools.

To help the affected employees find new skills for new jobs, the management has agreed to provide a training grant for each of the affected employees so that they can use it for skill-upgrading.

Union members can also tap the Union Training Assistance Programme fund for their training, Mr Teo said.

SPH has informed the Ministry of Manpower and NTUC about this exercise. Affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the staff union.

The exercise is expected to be completed by the current quarter and incur retrenchment costs of about $8 million.

With the integration, readers can expect to see greater sharing of content resources within SPH across platforms and titles.

CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENT

This restructuring exercise is necessary to enhance our operational efficiency and strengthen our position in this challenging economic and media environment.

SPH CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER NG YAT CHUNG

"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 media group said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2019, with the headline 'SPH to shed 130 jobs to rein in costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe