SPH beats forecasts with 18% profit rise

SINGAPORE – Singapore Press Holdings, Southeast Asia’s biggest newspaper publisher, on Friday raised the possibility of selling its telecom assets after it posted a better-than-expected 18 per cent rise in net profit.

Singapore’s dominant newspaper publisher also gave a positive outlook for its print advertising revenue, citing a generally healthy economic environment and the recognition of earnings from property development.

‘Our minds are open to discussion,’ Alan Chan, chief executive officer of SPH, said when asked about plans to sell stakes in StarHub and MobileOne.

However, he said StarHub also offers good dividend yields and capital reduction possibilities, while MobileOne also paid good dividends.

SPH said it earned $506.2 million (US$346 million) in net profit for the financial year ended Aug 31, up from $428.5 million a year earlier when it booked an exceptional gain of $66.8 million.

Its earnings beat the $462 million median forecast of 12 analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

SPH owns 13.9 per cent of MobileOne, the No. 3 mobile operator in Singapore, and also holds a 0.8 per cent stake in StarHub, Singapore’s second-largest telecoms firm.

The publisher’s stakes in MobileOne and StarHub were worth about $263 million and $43 million respectively, based on the number of shares held in these companies according to Reuters ownership data and Friday’s closing stock price.

SPH’s net profit for the fourth quarter was about $126 million compared with $70.9 million a year earlier, according to calculations by Reuters.

The 2006/2007 earnings included maiden profit contributions of $47.8 million from SPH’s condominium development near Thomson Road in central Singapore, the company said.

SPH’s revenue for the 12 months rose 13.7 per cent to $1.17 billion, aided by a 5.8 per cent gain in revenue from newspapers and magazines to $959.4 million, and an 80 per cent increase from its property businesses to $177.8 million.

The company recommended a final dividend of 19 Singapore cents a share, up from 17 cents a year earlier. — REUTERS

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