Singapore's biggest newspaper publisher accelerates 10% job cut

(Article originally published here)

SINGAPORE — Singapore Press Holdings, the city state’s largest newspaper publisher, intends to accelerate the pace of its job cutting program, as profits from its newspaper business continue to be squeezed.

The company held a town-hall meeting with employees on Thursday to explain the details of the accelerated restructuring. Some employees affected by the latest round of job cuts are believed to have received a letter from the company on the same day.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, CEO Ng Yat Chung said that the company was speeding up the pace of headcount reduction to reach a target to reduce 10% of total employees by the end of 2017, ahead of the original deadline of October 2018. Ng said at the press conference on Wednesday that about 230 jobs would be cut from now until the end of the year, including those vacated by natural attrition. 

SPH did not provide the total number of jobs that would be reduced by the restructuring exercise, which began in October 2016.

The staff reduction is especially concentrated in SPH’s core media business. According to the company, its newsroom personnel and media sales team will be reduced by 15%. SPH also has property investment and development businesses, in which redundancies have not been mentioned.

The company expects to book 13 million Singapore dollars ($9.6 million) in retrenchment costs during the September-November quarter. The Straits Times, its flagship English daily, reported that the company’s wage costs could be lowered by 8% to 9% as a result of the restructuring.

SPH announced on Wednesday that net profit for the fiscal year ended in August increased 32% to S$350 million. The increase was due to gains from the divestment of its online classifieds joint venture in Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar, as well as from fair value gains on investment properties, but its core media business continued to struggle.

Revenue for the year declined by 8.2% to S$1.032 billion, as media revenue shrank by 13%. Operating profit declined by 32.7%.

“To deal with the disruption to our core media business, we will step up our investments to enhance our capabilities in digital, data analytics, radio broadcasts, video and content marketing,” Ng said.

SPH has also outlined business restructuring measures, including the merger of its tabloid papers.