Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will continue to invest in the transformation of the media industry in order to keep up with evolving market preferences, especially the effect on the business of the coronavirus pandemic.
SPH chief executive Ng Yat Chung said during the company’s annual general meeting on Friday that its property segments such as purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) and retail were also established as a sector for increasing recurring profits (Nov 27).
SPH is confronting a daunting media environment, he addressed a simulated crowd. We have not been shielded from dramatic shifts that affect the mass media market everywhere. User tastes are shifting, and modern media are gradually moving to them.
As a consequence, both print ads and print subscription sales have been slowly diminishing in our media industry. And these are historically our main sources of sales and benefit. This year’s Covid-19 pandemic has escalated these problems even.
For the year that ended on Aug 31, SPH has recently announced a first ever net loss of $83.7 million, replacing the net profit of $213.2 million a year earlier.
Mr Ng said one of the tactics going forward is to raise sales from its property division.
In answer to shareholder concerns, he indicated that approximately 60% of the total Woodleigh Residences units, built by SPH and Kajima, had been sold as of Nov 20.
SPH is now on track to become a significant owner-operator of purpose-built student housing, he added, with over $1.4 billion worth of 7,723 beds spanning 28 properties in the United Kingdom and Germany.
“Some of the shareholders inquired about the SPH proposal to disclose the properties of our PBSA. We are still considering and searching for options to maximize the worth of shareholders. Our PBSA listing is a probability. But the organization can only make an announcement in the case that there is a material development in the matter,’ he added.
The business also strives to boost its financial efficiency, dividend distribution and share price, Mr Ng added.
SPH shares shot up about 19 per cent to $1.25 last Friday, triggering questioning from SGX.
SPH then responded that it periodically reviews all options across its assets, and can include negotiations with multiple parties and stakeholders from time to time. It added that there is no guarantee that any deal may materialize or that any conclusive or contractual arrangement can be achieved. In accordance with the listing regulations, it will make further announcements when necessary.
“This include investing in technological so as to reinvent, rejuvenate and re-position our product offerings.” he added.
He acknowledged that over the past few years, activities have turned into increases in digital circulation and digital advertisement sales, even though the business struggles to attempt to curb the downturn in print.
It has also expanded its data mining, such as creating a methodology for recognizing and delivering promotions to readers that are more willing to subscribe, culminating in a conversion rate that is three times greater than before.
Progress has also been made in forecasting each subscriber’s projected sales, which can direct the production of new goods and optimize consumer acquisition costs.
Video monitoring, such as mapping algorithms, also helps to analyze the flow in front of outdoor advertising screens in order to properly design strategies for returns from marketers.
Other transformation steps involve the revamp of The Straits Times to make it a healthier readers’ experience, he said.
The next breakthrough would also be to deliver News Tablets for the papers, close to The Straits Times ‘.
“SPH is ready for a long recovery from Covid-19,” Chairman Lee Boon Yang said. Via an ambitious cost management programme, the priority is to save cash whilst following a disciplined and cautious approach to capital allocation. Our resilient balance sheet will help counter the long-term volatility of the company buffer.