Singapore Press Holdings, or SPH, reported on Friday that its fiscal first quarter net profit fell 6.3 percent on-year to S$57.9 million as investment income dropped due to a year-earlier gain.
Investment income, including fair value changes, dropped 73.4 percent on-year in the quarter to S$3.2 million from S$12.4 million in the year-ago quarter, due to a year-ago gain of S$9.1 million on disposal of investments.
“The divestment was timely as SPH locked in gains and avoided losses on the portfolio during the recent financial market turbulence,” it said.
Revenue for the quarter ended 30 November was S$258.76 million, down 3.2 percent on-year, the publisher of the Straits Times newspaper said in a filing to SGX after the market close on Friday.
Operating profit, which represents the recurring earnings of the media, property and other businesses, rose 7.6 percent on-year in the quarter to S$74.84 million, it said.
Other operating expenses in the quarter dropped 41.7 percent on-year to S$23.89 million, partly due to the absence of year-ago retrenchment costs of S$11.6 million, reduced business promotion expenses and unrealized foreign exchange gains, SPH said. Total costs for the quarter fell 7.0 percent on-year to S$183.91 million, the filing said.
Digital ad revenue rises
In the media business, operating profit rose 14.7 percent on-year for the quarter to S$4.1 million, mainly on the absence of year-ago retrenchment costs, while the segment’s revenue fell 6.8 percent on-year to S$162.1 million, SPH said.
But on an optimistic note, the publisher said the rate of decline in print ad revenue was the slowest in four quarters, while digital ad revenue rose by 12.9 percent. Overall digital revenue, including revenue from circulation, ads, online classifieds and other digital portals, rose 10.1 percent, SPH said.
Ng Yat Chung, SPH’s CEO, said in the statement, “The print side of the media business continues to experience headwinds, even as we grew revenue from the digital side of the business.”
SPH launched a new product during the quarter, called Photonico, to tap the company’s image archive, it said.
Property income rises
In the property segment, which contributes nearly 55 percent of group profit, revenue rose 11.1 percent on-year to S$68.0 million in the quarter, while operating profit was up 5.2 percent on-year due to a S$3.2 million contribution from the U.K. student accommodation portfolio acquired in September of last year.
In November, SPH and partner Kajima Development held a soft launch of The Woodleigh Residences project, with around 55 percent of the 50 units launched sold at more than S$2,000 a square foot, on average, it said; the official launch will be in the third quarter.
After the quarter’s close, SPH also tied up with Kajima Development to bid on a Pasir Ris Central white site under the government land sale program, it added.
The others segment, which includes the aged care business, rose 2.6 percent on-year in the quarter, to S$24.2 million, SPH said.
This article was originally published on Friday, 11 January 2019 at 18:28 SGT; it has since been updated.