Print media giant, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), announced on Tuesday that it is planning to layoff 140 staff from its media sales and magazines teams. This comes amid a slump in advertising revenue during the pandemic, although CEO Ng Yat Chung noted that “subscriptions and readership of our news titles have increased since the onset of Covid-19.”
The Big Picture: The retrenchment exercise is yet another sign of the company’s long-running financial woes:
- This is the third retrenchment exercise since 2017 – the previous layoffs were in Q4 2017 and November 2019
- SPH stock was removed from STI index in June 2020, an index it helped set up
- The Edge reported in July 2020: Chairman of SPH REIT and his wife reportedly sold all shares in the REIT
The last point is the most troubling. SPH’s print business has been suffering for a long time because of digital disruption – losing readers and advertisers to digital media. The company has, thus, look towards its properties business as a profit driver for the company.
With Covid-19 though, SPHREIT’s properties are also in trouble – Paragon Mall, most notably, relies heavily on tourists as it is a luxury mall situated in the downtown area. There are few tourists thanks to lockdowns. The REIT’s UK student housing properties are likely affected, too, since students are likely taking classes online, instead of on campus.
On a positive note, enduring brands like The Straits Times, The Business Times and Lianhe Zaobao should be able to survive the Covid storm.