SPH retrenches 140 employees as Covid-19 hits advertising revenues

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will be laying off 140 employees from its media sales and magazines operations as it addresses the impact Covid-19 has had on advertising revenues.

The retrenchments will affect about 5 per cent of its Media Group’s headcount, and is part of its media transformation roadmap, it said in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 18).

Affected staff will receive compensation on terms negotiated and agreed with the Creative Media and Publishing Union (CMPU).

SPH has also been working closely with the union and e2i, which matches workers to jobs, to ensure they get the help and support they need during this period, the statement said.

Chief executive Ng Yat Chung said that the economic downturn has “significantly impacted” SPH’s advertising revenue, although subscriptions and readership of the group’s news titles have increased since the onset of Covid-19.

Digital circulation of its news titles, including The Straits Times, has grown 52.6 per cent so far this year, compared with a year ago, boosting overall circulation of these titles by 9.8 per cent in the same period.

Newsroom staff and journalists are not affected by this exercise.

Mr Ng said: “A more integrated approach of producing and selling our content across our various platforms will allow us to deal more efficiently and effectively with the new level of demand we are seeing from our advertisers and audience.”

Besides media, SPH is in property, purpose-built student accommodation and nursing homes. It owns malls such as Paragon, Clementi Mall and the Rail Mall.

Last year, the company started a review of its media business to provide advertisers with more effective marketing solutions by adopting an integrated sales approach across its different platforms and titles, the statement said.

SPH had brought together the specialist appeal of its magazine titles and radio audiences with the broader mass market audiences of its newspaper titles, and progressively rolled out self-service options for advertisers to customise their campaigns.

The group has also intensified its efforts to share its content resources across its print, digital and voice platforms, the statement said.

“The streamlining of operations for greater efficiency and synergy has led to the redundancy of some roles,” it added.

SPH said it has exited its magazine business in Malaysia. Cleo and Young Parents magazines have also ceased publication.

The company had earlier informed the Ministry of Manpower, CMPU and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) of the retrenchment exercise, which will cost about $8 million.

CMPU president David Teo said the union is providing affected employees with strong support.

“Amid the economic uncertainties brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak and companies’ restructuring efforts to streamline operations, retrenchments may be inevitable,” he said.

Its key priority is to stand by its members, protect their interests and ensure that they are treated with dignity, he added.

Last year, the company shed 130 jobs from the group’s media solutions division, magazines and smaller subsidiaries to rein in costs. In 2017, it trimmed 130 jobs, which affected newsrooms and its Integrated Marketing Division.

Asked if there will be more layoffs, an SPH spokesman said on Tuesday: “There are none planned, and the focus is on executing the transformation plan to make sure the business continues to be sustainable. However, it will also be dependent on when the economy recovers.”

In its statement on Tuesday, the company noted that since the Covid-19 pandemic, it has reviewed its costs, cut back on discretionary spending and instituted pay cuts for senior management.

In March, SPH announced that its directors including the CEO, and senior management, would take voluntary pay cuts of 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/sph-retrenches-140-employees-as-covid-19-hits-advertising-revenues?utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=STFB&utm_source=Facebook#Echobox=1597750607

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