Weaker investment income

1Q12 ad revenue slowed as expected though investment income fell more than anticipated. Its share price could remain supported by decent yields of 6% but we see this balanced by receding ad growth and investment income.


1Q12 core profit is in line at 25% of our FY11 estimate and consensus. Stronger property earnings and lower finance costs made up for weaker print and investment income. We keep our EPS estimates and SOP target price. Maintain Neutral.

Slowdown in ad growth

We expect slower ad revenue in FY12 because of a weakening economy. The slowdown had already been apparent in 1Q12 when newspaper ad revenue fell 4% yoy on weaker display (-3% yoy) and classified (-4% yoy), albeit from a high base in 1Q11. While SPH tried to keep a tight lid on costs (staff and newsprint costs were up 2% and 4% respectively), this was not sufficient. We expect sustained topline weakness and a slight cost reprieve from softening newsprint prices and variable staff costs in the coming quarters.

Investment income succumbed

While risks to its investment portfolio were to be expected given market volatility, SPH surprised with a 90% yoy fall in investment income due to unrealised FX losses on investments. We understand that these were mainly related to forward hedging contracts for both investments and newsprint exposure, stemming from a stronger US$. With continued market volatility and possibly unabated US$ strength, risks remain.

Property only performer

Property was the sole performer as rental revenue grew 27% yoy with the aid of Clementi Mall which had commenced operations in 2QFY11 and higher rental rates at Paragon (+3% yoy). Both are fully leased.

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