International Business & Economy SPH faces reality of digital push, sees loss in market value

SPH faces reality of digital push, sees loss in market value

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Singapore Press Holdings Ltd saw its market value fall below that of its better-known US peer, the New York Times, for the first time in 12 years, while it struggles to contain revenue losses mainly due to digital disruption.

In an indication that the local media giant is facing tougher times, the company’s market value saw its outstanding shares at S$4.2 billion ($3.13 billion), about $7.1 million less than the publisher of the New York Times.

With the fall in its market capitalisation, SPH is now trading near levels last seen during the 1997 Asian currency meltdown and the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis wrote Bloomberg.

To make things worse for the company, its shares are the year’s worst performers on the country’s benchmark index, down more than 26 percent.

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The drop comes as New York Times’ stock gained 45 percent gain amid a surge in online subscriptions following President Donald Trump’s election victory in November.

Short interest in Singapore Press, which prints the Straits Times newspaper, is close to its highest level in 18 months. The shares closed 0.8 percent higher on Wednesday after erasing early losses, the first gain in three days.

To the analysts, it is not surprising that Singapore Press is facing such a tenuous situation with the expansion and the popularity of digital media.

The print industry is suffering from the digital disruption, which is happening across many jurisdictions in the region, including Malaysia where The Star, The Sun, and Malay Mail are all facing a reduction in their printing capabilities.

According to an analyst who spoke to TISG, SPH will have to do more than just diversifying into sectors that are currently not aiding in its fight against revenue crunch.

While digital disruption has eroded its readership for its publications, it has also tried to go digital with some of its titles, however, it apparently lacked the appeal to capture an even bigger online market.

In order to fight the setback, SPH diversified into property, telecommunications and events management, slowing its earnings decline but analysts told Bloomberg those are not having enough impact on its overall performance.

Cost discipline remains a focus. The company merged two existing newspapers and announced plans last year to cut as much as 10 percent of its workforce over the next two years, said Bloomberg.

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