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SPH To Deliver More Product Innovation (ST)

BackDec 02, 2010

It will explore new opportunities and grow adjacent businesses

BY FRANCIS CHAN
COMPANIES CORRESPONDENT

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) will continue to deliver more product innovation and explore new business opportunities, said its chairman Tony Tan.

Speaking at the media group's annual general meeting yesterday, Dr Tan told shareholders that the media and property group will maintain its focus on its core print business and improve content and widen readership.

But, at the same time, "we will keep growing our adjacent businesses to secure the company's long-term growth... and also leverage on the synergies among our many products to deliver value to our stakeholders".

Dr Tan highlighted SPH's strong set of results against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, which dogged the economy for most of 2008 and last year.

The bumper results were won on the back of a rebound in advertisement sales and property earnings, he said.

Total revenue soared to a new high of $1.38 billion for the year ended Aug 31 and full-year operating profit rose to $539.1 million. The group's net profit also jumped 18 per cent to $497.9 million.

"The print business performed outstandingly well, despite the gloomy forecasts for the newspaper industry worldwide," Dr Tan said. "Revenue from the newspaper and magazine segment grew by $82 million to $974 million."

Final contributions from the Sky@eleven condominium project also boosted the firm's property segment, which will add the new Clementi Mall to its portfolio of properties next year.

Dr Tan said Paragon, which offers premium retail and office space in the heart of the Orchard Road shopping belt, continues to enjoy full occupancy, while Sky@eleven has helped SPH post a profit of $475 million over the past four years.

A number of shareholders at the meeting, however, voiced their concern about SPH's performance for the year ahead, with the condominium having obtained its temporary occupation permit in May.

But SPH chief executive officer Alan Chan assured shareholders that the firm was not going to "rest on its laurels" and would continue to explore new investments and business opportunities.

He pointed to new ventures Sphere Exhibits and BizLink Services – one of the firm's recent acquisitions – that are part of an effort by SPH to gain a stronger presence in the events and exhibitions market.

Looking ahead, Dr Tan said although SPH had weathered the crisis "quite well", the firm needed to brace itself for unexpected challenges ahead in the fast-changing media landscape.

He added that SPH needed to ensure it continued to position itself as a significant new media player by synergising the group's online products with existing traditional media.

Mr Chan said SPH must continue to invest and develop new media platforms even as some shareholders complained that these had yet to turn a profit.

"Our first generation websites are already profitable," he said, referring to online versions of flagship SPH newspapers such as The Straits Times, The Business Times and Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.

Others such as citizen journalism website Stomp, The Straits Times Razor TV and online classifieds unit ST701 are still in their "nurturing stages".

"We have to prepare for the future... SPH must move into new media, but it takes many years to nurture this business," said Mr Chan.

franchan@sph.com.sg



OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE

"The print business performed outstandingly well, despite the gloomy forecasts for the newspaper industry worldwide. Revenue from the newspaper and magazine segment grew by $82 million to $974 million."

Dr Tony Tan, SPH chairman



PLANNING FOR FUTURE

"Our first generation websites are already profitable. We have to prepare for the future... SPH must move into new media, but it takes many years to nurture this business."

Mr Alan Chan, SPH chief executive officer