Business

SPH revenue falls 3.8 per cent in Q1, but property still a bright spot

But property remains a bright spot and daily newspaper digital sales rise 49.8%

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) yesterday posted a 3.8 per cent dip in revenue for the three months to Nov 30, hit by lower print advertisement revenue and one-off retrenchment costs, although property remains a bright spot.

The mainboard-listed company, which publishes The Straits Times, saw revenue dip to $249 million for the quarter, down from $258.7 million in the corresponding period last year.

This is mainly because of a 13.6 per cent fall in revenue from the media segment to $140.1 million, driven by a 19.8 per cent drop in print advertisement revenue.

However, newspaper digital ad revenue rose 8.8 per cent compared with a year ago.

Circulation revenue for Q1 fell 4.3 per cent or $1.5 million on the back of a 10.3 per cent drop - or 51,010 copies - in daily average newspaper print sales.

Daily average newspaper digital sales rose 49.8 per cent or by over 109,000 copies, partly because of the company's News Tablet campaign.

SPH's flagship, The Straits Times, is the latest to launch its subscriber package, after Lianhe Zaobao and Berita Harian.

Within three weeks of the Dec 18 launch, there were more than 5,000 sign-ups, over half of them from new subscribers.

NET PROFIT

Overall, the group's net profit fell 17.2 per cent to $46.3 million for the first quarter.

The media segment's bottomline was further hit by one-time retrenchment costs of $7.2 million, following the rationalisation of the media sales and content teams in October last year.

Property remains a bright spot for SPH, as the segment saw profit before tax rise 38.2 per cent to $54.9 million in the first quarter, boosted by a price adjustment of $10.5 million to an asset in the student accommodation portfolio.

Revenue from the property segment in the quarter rose 18.9 per cent to $80.8 million from SPH's expanded student accommodation portfolio, as well as contributions from SPH Reit.

The segment contributes about 80 per cent to SPH's profits.

Said SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung: "Our core media business remains challenged as advertisers cut back on their advertising due to the uncertain business outlook.

"However, we are encouraged by the response to our digital transformation initiatives, including the News Tablet campaign."

He noted that the recent addition of 2,383 beds to the group's British PBSA (purpose-built student accommodation) portfolio and the expansion of SPH Reit into Adelaide, taking a 50 per cent stake in its largest shopping centre Westfield Marion, after Q1 "will strengthen our efforts to boost recurring income from the property segment". - THE STRAITS TIMES

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