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SPH says its finances can withstand virus impact, Companies & Markets News & Top Stories

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Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) said it has sufficient finances to withstand the impact of Covid-19.

It noted that it has a strong balance sheet with a healthy cash buffer of more than $800 million, while gearing ratios have been improved with cost management.

The firm noted also that it has no loans due until June next year.

The update out on Tuesday came on the same day SPH announced that two subsidiaries – info-tech firms StreetSine Technology Group and StreetSine Singapore – have applied for judicial management.

It noted that the units account for only a small proportion of total revenue and earnings.

The bigger picture concerned the media and property group’s finances amid the downturn stemming from the pandemic.

It noted that it has a “disciplined approach to capital allocation”, with regular reviews of non-core businesses and investments.

The businesses in the media, purpose-built student accommodation and retail segments are “well placed” despite the virus, it added.

The media segment’s digital subscriptions through news tablets grew 8 per cent from March to last month. It has also partnered Google to grow digital advertising revenue and subscriptions.

Its refunds of £4.6 million (S$8 million) from student accommodation in Britain were at the lower end of the expected range and it has achieved 69 per cent of the next academic year’s target revenue.

British universities will gradually reopen as lockdowns ease.

On the retail front, the initial decline in footfall for assets in Australia is slowing with the gradual lifting of lockdown measures there.

SPH also said that first-party data, which is data it collects directly, is important as it enables the firm to deliver an “enjoyable digital experience” and “make relevant content recommendations” that will translate to higher reader engagement.

While the company engages vendors who collect third-party data by embedding their cookies in their clients’ websites, more browsers are blocking third-party cookies on the back of privacy issues.

In the light of this, SPH has been investing in its own data collection, processing and activation capabilities in recent years.

It added that it stands to benefit when advertisers that lose access to third-party data turn to publishers with first-party data.

A separate announcement on Tuesday addressed the subsidiaries that have applied for judicial management.

Both units have also applied for interim judicial managers to be appointed pending the determination of their applications.

A pre-trial conference has been fixed for June 4 but the hearing date has yet to be fixed.

SPH’s wholly owned subsidiary, SPH Interactive, holds 60 per cent of the shares of StreetSine Technology and the rest are owned by investors Samuel Cranage Baker and Jeremy Lee Chuen Yang, who each have 20 per cent.

StreetSine Singapore is wholly owned by StreetSine Technology. It integrates big data sets with mobile applications to provide property information and transaction tools to the real estate market.

On April 7, the board announced the legal proceedings commenced by Mr Baker and Mr Lee against SPH Interactive and SPH in relation to StreetSine Technology.

SPH said on Tuesday that the combined net tangible liabilities and the combined revenue and pre-tax losses of the two subsidiaries account for less than 1 per cent of the overall group’s net tangible assets and consolidated revenue and pre-tax profits.

This is based on SPH’s audited statements for the financial year ended Aug 31 last year.

The firm added that StreetSine Technology and StreetSine Singapore are not significant subsidiaries of SPH and the judicial management applications will not have a material impact on the company’s operations for the financial year ending Aug 31.

THE BUSINESS TIMES



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