SPH, Norway firm in tie-up to boost online business - Sep 14, 2006 (ST)

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The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

SPH, Norway firm in tie-up to boost online business

By Lee Su Shyan, Companies Correspondent
Sep 14, 2006
The Straits Times

MEDIA group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has launched its most ambitious bid to develop its online business and expand beyond local shores by inking a tie-up with European media leader Schibsted.

SPH and the Norwegian company said yesterday that they had agreed to pump in $2 million each to set up two joint ventures - one in Singapore and one covering the Asia region.

Schibsted is regarded as one of the world's most successful media companies in terms of the profitability of its online businesses.

The two companies will cooperate to develop an online business that includes online classifieds, search and directories and other Internet opportunities.

SPH chief executive Alan Chan said yesterday: 'We are very excited about the partnership as it marks a major milestone in SPH's quest to grow beyond print and beyond Singapore.'

He added that with growing Internet usage, 'we will be able to secure opportunities to increase online advertising revenue'.

The Singapore joint venture company is called SPH Search, focusing on online search and directories here. It will be owned 75 per cent by SPH unit SPH Interactive and 25 per cent by Schibsted International Classifieds & Search, a unit of Schibsted.

The regional joint venture company, called 701Search, will identify investments in online classifieds, search and directories across South-east Asia and Greater China. It will be owned 50-50 by SPH and Schibsted.

SPH director Willie Cheng will sit on the boards of both companies. The joint ventures will benefit from SPH's local knowledge plus its well-established network in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China.

Schibsted chief executive Kjell Aamot said the deal marks Schibsted's first move into Asia. Its operations cover newspapers, television, film, online, mobile and publishing.

Its online business includes online editions of its newspapers VG and Aftonbladet. Its classified ad portal is considered No.1 in Norway and it has created a search engine, Sesam, which is similar to Google.

SPH has made various forays into the Internet arena with online recruitment website ST701. The interactive portal Stomp was also recently launched. But the tie-up with Schibsted marks a more far-reaching online expansion.

Mr Chan said Schibsted had turned its online business into a very profitable business, a process which offered important lessons.