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SPH to invest in new media platforms to secure its future - Dec 05, 2007 (ST)

BackDec 05, 2007

The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

SPH to invest in new media platforms to secure its future

Its online initiatives like citizen journalism site Stomp, online classifieds ST701, and Chinese-language lifestyle portal omy have all done well.

By Chua Hian Hou
Dec 05, 2007
The Straits Times

WHILE media giant Singapore Press Holdings' core newspapers and magazines continue to do very well, it is investing in new media platforms to secure its future, the company said at its annual general meeting on Wednesday.

More than 500 shareholders turned up at SPH's 23rd AGM at the News Centre auditorium in Toa Payoh North to find out how the group had fared for the financial year ended Aug 31.

SPH Chairman Tony Tan said in his opening speech that the group has had a good financial year with the company's 'core' newspaper and magazines business turning 'in an excellent performance'.

Its flagship dailies The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao had demonstrated 'resilience and flexibility in the face of threats to traditional media' - the latter even overtook Today to regain its position as Singapore's second most-read daily.

Its stable of print products were able to 'buck the trend' other newspapers in the world were facing, like falling readership and advertising revenues, said SPH CEO Alan Chan, who credited this to the 'good work of its journalists' who continue to deliver good products that 'people are prepared to spend money to read'.

But while it continues to 'grow from strength to strength in our traditional print products', said Dr Tan, the company has 'also been investing in other media platforms to secure SPH?s long term growth'.

Its online initiatives like citizen journalism site Stomp, online classifieds ST701, and Chinese-language lifestyle portal omy have all done well.

By next year, it will be rolling out search and directory services here, to extend its online offerings. Questions from shareholders came fast and furious when the floor was opened to them.

One shareholder, who called himself Mr Tan, asked SPH to 'exercise ingenuity' in order to 'milk this Internet cash cow'.

Dr Tan replied that the company had every intention of doing this, and has set aside $100 million to invest in this area.

Retiree Low Chai Yeong wanted to know when the online business will show results, noting that SPH's online forays had cost it more this year - $13 million - compared to the $9 million the year before.

Dr Tan said it will 'take some time' before its online initiatives start producing profit. Nonetheless, said Mr Chan, it is necessary to 'prepare for the future' now.

SPH's Sky@eleven luxury condominium along Thomson Road also saw drew a number of questions from the floor.

One shareholder asked if SPH had misjudged the property market by pricing its Sky@eleven at $975 per sq ft, in light of how quickly it sold out - within hours of its soft launch.

He suggested that the company would had been successful even it had raised the selling price to $1,500 per sq ft, even if it took 'two weeks' to sell all the units.

In response, Dr Tan agreed that this may be true with 'hindsight'.

At that time though, after discussions with various experts, the $975 per sq ft price had appeared to be a good price, he said. Dr Cheong Choong Kong and Mr Lee Ek Tieng will be stepping down, to be replaced by former MP and International Olympic Committee member Mr Ng Ser Miang, and former Chief Justice Yong Pung How.

Both were duly elected.