SPH to continue seeking ways to add value

PHOTO: SPH to continue seeking ways to add value

Media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will continue to look for projects to build its long-term businesses, said chairman Lee Boon Yang Friday.

This comes even as it is poised to engage a new generation of digital media consumers, as well as advertisers that want to reach out to consumers using multiple platforms.

He was speaking at SPH's annual general meeting, held on its News Centre premises in Toa Payoh North.

Dr Lee highlighted the recently announced $100 million New Media Fund, which will be used to invest in media-related businesses for growth.

"We are also looking at malls and other appropriate investments to create more value for SPH shareholders," Dr Lee told shareholders.

He said the group is constantly looking at new business opportunities and exploring ways to rejuvenate and streng-then its core media business.

SPH has also identified various initiatives which will yield annual cost-savings of about $19 million, noted Dr Lee.

The company has an overall "war chest" of $1.7 billion that can be deployed when suitable investment opportunities arise.

In the meantime, the company will maintain a return on these funds "that is commensurate with risks", Dr Lee added.

Some digital media investments, both in Singapore and overseas, may take several years to yield a profit, he said in response to a shareholder's question.

For instance, the investment in Malaysia online marketplace website Mudah.my took about five years to become profitable last year.

"We have to position ourselves for the media of the future which is going to be more and more in the digital arena," said Dr Lee.

He noted that the yield for digital media remains lower than that for the print product. This is in line with global industry trends as advertisers have not fully moved to tap digital platforms.

"We will continue to work hard to ensure that our print platforms continue to provide good service to advertisers."

The company will also have to develop strategies for digital subscribers to give a "similar, if not higher" yield compared with print subscribers.

More than 600 investors attended the meeting, which lasted 21/2 hours.

Dr Lee said Mr Willie Cheng, who retired from the SPH board Friday, has served the board and company "with distinction" since being appointed in March 2004.

He also welcomed Mr Quek See Tiat who joined the board on Sept 1, noting that Mr Quek is well qualified to contribute to the company.

From 1987 to last year, Mr Quek was a partner and then deputy chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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