Singapore Press Holdings, Asia's leading media organisation, to restructure media business into not-for-profit entity

Under the restructuring proposal, SPH Media will eventually be transferred to a not-for-profit entity for a nominal sum. - The straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE, May 6 (Bloomberg): Singapore Press Holdings Ltd., which publishes the country’s flagship daily newspaper, plans to spin off its media business into a non-profit entity after conducting a strategic review of its businesses.

Faced with an upheaval in this business in recent years, Singapore Press -- which also invests in properties from shopping malls to student accommodation -- has approached the government with a proposal to put the media business on a sustainable financial footing, it said in a statement on Thursday

. It will provide initial resources and funding worth at least S$110 million ($82 million) to this new unit, which will eventually be transferred to a non-profit entity.

This structure that allows the media business to "seek funding from a range of public and private sources with a shared interest in supporting quality journalism and credible information is the optimal solution,” the company said in a statement. It added that winding up or selling the business were not feasible options given the function of providing news and information to the public.

Last year, the conglomerate swung to its first full-year loss on record, based on data compiled by Bloomberg going back to 1990, after consecutive years of shrinking net income. Its media business accounted for more than half of its revenue last year while property made up about 38%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg

New Model

It said that while such a model may be unfamiliar in Singapore, many news organizations overseas are operating under these funding structures. They include the Guardian in the United Kingdom that’s been controlled by the Scott Trust since 1936 and the Tampa Bay Times in the US that’s owned by the non-profit Poynter Institute, it said.

SPH’s shares were halted for trading on Thursday pending release of the announcement.

They have gained 17% since the end of March, set for their third straight quarter of gains.

Shares rose to their highest in more than a year in April, before paring some of those gains, after company said in March that it is undertaking a strategic review to consider options for its various businesses.

SPH is Asia's leading media organisation.

Its core business is in the publishing of newspapers, magazines and books in both print and digital editions. These include the English flagship daily The Straits Times and the Chinese language daily Lianhe Zaobao.

Besides, SPH also owns other digital products, online classifieds, radio stations and outdoor media. - Reuters
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