It’s sad that Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will cut up to 410 jobs from its 4,182 strong workforce. SPH is still making hundreds of millions of dollars in profits but not as much as it used to. Its net profits have dropped below $300 million for the first time in more than a decade.
The company will be cutting up to 10 per cent of its staff over two years in a “right-sizing exercise”, says the Business Times. Fewer than 30 employees will be retrenched, says the Straits Times. So more than 300 jobs will be cut through attrition. People will resign, retire or won’t have their contracts renewed and they won’t be replaced.
The shakeout also involves a merger. My Paper will be merged into The New Paper which will be distributed as a freesheet from December.
The company said in a press release that the net profit attributable to shareholders for the year ended August 31, 2016, was $265.3 million — $56.4 million or 17.5 per cent lower than in the previous financial year. But that’s not the whole story.
The SPH website gives earnings figures for every year since 2003. And never in all those years have net profits dropped below $300 million.
SPH compared with The New York Times Co
Bloomberg, when it broke the news that SPH was about to cut staff and merge papers, reported that SPH’s $6 billion market capitalization was more than twice that of The New York Times Co. Even now, SPH’s net profits are almost thrice as large as the New York Times’. The New York Times Co reported a net income of US$63.25 million in 2015. The New York Times is also facing radical change and job cuts, say the Guardian, Politico and others.
The newspaper business is facing hard times almost everywhere. The New York Times produces an excellent newspaper, both online and offline, has more than a million digital subscribers, but still has problems. SPH is sitting on the catbird seat, with no other newspaper to worry about except the freesheet Today, and yet seeing profits slide.
I feel sorry for the people whose jobs are on the line. Jobs are not just a means of putting food on the table. Some of the people on the way out no doubt love what they do, something they may not be able to do again. I have read about the American journalists who have had to move on, do other kinds of work. While their resilience is admirable, it’s sad they had to give up their first love, their first choice.
I love the internet, but it has been hard on the newspapers. Even innovative, content-rich newspapers like the New York Times and the Guardian have problems.
SPH is turning The New Paper, which sells 60,000 copies a day on average, into a freesheet but not touching the Business Times, whose circulation is even lower (average daily circulation: 47,700 in August 2015, according to the SPH website). But Singapore has to have a business daily while The New Paper has to compete with Today. It’s interesting that SPH wants The New Paper to have a circulation of 300,000 – same as Today.
Here’s how much SPH made in net profits over the years, the figures taken from the SPH website. It doesn’t give figures before 2003.