SINGAPORE (July 12): Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) saw its earnings fall 44.1% to $26.2 million for the 3Q19 ended May, compared to $46.9 million a year ago.

Earnings per share (EPS) fell to 2 cents for 3Q19, from 3 cents in 3Q18.

Total revenue for the quarter came in at $249.6 million, 2.1% lower than $254.9 million in the previous year.

The decline was led by lower operating revenue, which fell 1.6% to $246.1 million on the back of a 16.7% drop in print advertisement revenue, a 7.3% decline in circulation revenue, and the absence of contribution from which was divested in November 2018.

The decline in operating revenue was cushioned by higher rental revenue from its Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) portfolio and contribution from SPH REIT’s Figtree Grove Shopping Centre in Australia.

Overall, total costs grew 5.5% to $220.4 million in 3Q19, led by a 21.9% rise in other operating expenses to $37.8 million and a 27.0% increase in premises costs to $21.4 million.

Finance costs rose 37.3% to $13.3 million, due to interest costs on loan facilities taken up to fund the acquisition of the PBSA portfolio and Figtree.

The group saw a surge in share of results of associates and joint ventures to $10.8 million in 3Q19, from $0.3 million in 3Q18, due to a $10.4 million share of property divestment gain recognised by an associate, Perennial Chinatown Point.

However, net income from investments fell 81.9% to $4.0 million during the quarter, from $21.9 million a year ago.

This was mainly due to the absence of gain from the share exchange and capital reduction of Qoo10 and dividend income from M1, which were recognised in 3Q18.

As at end May, cash and cash equivalents stood at $206.0 million.

“The media business continues to be challenged on various fronts including the ongoing trade tensions and the slowing of the Singapore economy, but we remain focused on our digital transformation strategy,” says Ng Yat Chung, CEO of SPH.

SPH says the digital side of its media business remains on the upswing, with newspaper digital ad revenue rising 11% y-o-y.

“We see improved recurring income from the property segment which has expanded its portfolio following recent acquisitions,” Ng adds. “With our recent issuance of perpetual securities, we are well-placed to take advantage of growth opportunities.”

The group’s property segment, which saw revenue growing 21.4% to $220.7 million boosted by additions to the UK student accommodation portfolio, now accounts for around 80% of the group’s profits.

Shares in SPH closed flat at $2.49 on Friday.