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SPH’s media business continues downward trajectory with 14 per cent Q1 revenue fall

Singapore Press Holdings has encountered a rocky start to 2018 with the announcement of another revenue decline within its core media business.

The owner of The Straits Times reported a 13.9 per cent fall in earnings in the first quarter for 2018, tumbling by S$28m to S$174m from the same period in 2017.

At the same time, the media arm’s pre-tax profit dropped 20.2 per cent to S$26.5 million.

Once again, SPH pinned the blame on the decline of its advertising revenue, which fell by S$24.2m – or 16.7 per cent – year on year. In addition, circulation revenue dipped by 7.3 per cent – a drop of S$3.1m.

However, while things looked bad within SPH’s media division, at a group level, the company’s net profit rose 32.1 per cent to S$60.4m.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the company’s revenue is now coming from SPH’s ‘other’ sources of income, which includes its shopping malls Paragon and The Clementi Mall, in addition to the elderly care home Orange Valley.

Revenue from these segments rose by nearly 50 per cent year-on-year to account for S$23.6m in Q1.

The earnings come on the back of significant job cuts in October, with 230 positions cut and news teams merged between The Straits Times and The Business Times.

SPH has also amalgamated teams from its Chinese Media Group (CMG), which consists of Lianhe ZaobaoLianhe Wanbao and CMG Digital to form a new newsroom called NewsHub. Last month, SPH also decided to cut down the circulation of The New Paper to five days a week after axing its Saturday edition.

Recently, SPH’s CEO Ng Yat Chung told investors that the company had to take a “hard-nosed” look at its media business, as its flagship titles faced overwhelming competition from a fragmented digital landscape and the gargantuan power of Google and Facebook.

He said: “The truth is the revenue has been falling and there is a structural decline in newspapers.

“We have to convert ourselves from the news business to the insights business in digital. The strategy [to protect print at all cost] has seen its last days.”

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