Digital business buffers SPH's financials, continues to be a key focus in 2019

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has seen encouraging growth from the digital side of its business, while revenue from traditional media still continues to struggle. This is according to financial results released by the company for the first half of 2019 financial year that ended in February. In a press release, SPH said digitalisation continues to be its key strategy moving forward.

SPH reported a 15.1% increase in newspaper digital ad revenue compared to a year ago. Total digital revenue, which includes revenue from other digital portals, circulation and online classifieds, grew steadily at 13.1%. Revenue for the media business, on the other hand, fell by 10.1% to SG$296.2 million, partly as a result of the shorter festive advertising window between Christmas and Chinese New Year.

Profit was 3.8% lower at SG$42.1 million. For 2QFY19, operating revenue was SG$10.4 million or 4.4% lower as print advertisement revenue declined, although the drop was cushioned by higher property revenue.

SPH's media business has been building its digital capabilities as part of its ongoing strategy to digitise the media business and grow new digital subscribers. In April, the Singapore Media Exchange, an advertising exchange set up by SPH and MediaCorp expanded with seven new partners in a bid to reach a wider audience across Singapore and the region. In March, SPH launched a news tablet package which comes with a Samsung tablet and a pre-loaded e-paper version of Chinese newspaper publications. Over 2,000 subscriptions were garnered within two weeks of launch, read a statement from SPH.

Recently in February, SPH had also obtained a 13.45% stake in M1, the third largest telco in Singapore. Keppel Corporation is the largest shareholder. SPH chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung said, “With the completion of the M1 transaction in March 2019, we look forward to the next step of being part of M1’s transformational journey. We will be closely collaborating with Keppel Corporation and M1 to leverage on the synergies among us.”

Overall, SPH saw operating profit rise by 0.6% to SG$121.3 million despite operating revenue easing 3.0% to SG$477.6 million. This is partially because operating expenses fell 5.6% to SG$365.3 million due to ongoing cost control and the absence of retrenchment costs seen in the previous period.

Last year, SPH had also seen growth from various digital initiatives. The firm said it was embracing data analytics, artificial intelligence and other advanced automation technologies to enhance readership experiences.