Singapore Press Holdings ("SPH") continues to face headwind in its Media Segment. The media business faces decline in print advertisement and circulation revenue. Worse still, the bloodletting from technological disruption has not reached the trough and its operating results is expected to deteriorate. Media revenue dropped from S$ 656Mil in FY2018 to S$ 577Mil in FY2019 which is a 12% decline. Media profit plunged from S$98.7Mil in FY2018 to S$54.7Mil which is a shocking 44.6% decline. At one point in time, its share price dipped below S$2 per share. Another round of retrenchment exercise has been announced by SPH to shave off 5% of staff in its Media Group. It has since recovered to S$2.34 as at 8 November 2019.
|Extract of Business Segment Performance-Profits before taxation|
Despite the pessimistic outlook for its Media Segment, there is a bright spot in SPH, that is, their Property business segment which continued to grow from strength to strength,. As overall outlook of SPH is not stable and no one knows exactly when the bottoming out of the Media business will occur, my preference is to invest only in SPH REIT until there is more clarity to SPH future projections.
A delightful piece of good news was announced by SPH this week.
SPH REIT Revealed Another Major Surprise- Acquisition of New Australian Super Regional Shopping Mall in Adelaide
SPH REIT announced on 7 November 2019 that it has acquired a joint venture stake from Lendlease Real Estate Investments Limited Group in Westfield Marion Shopping Centre, Adelaide, South Australia for S$637Mil. This was a major surprise to many investors and myself who thought that the recent fund raising via S$300Mil of perpetual securities was to fund the purchase of Seletar Mall from SPH. While I have previously posted that the last December 2018 acquisition of Figtree Grove Shopping Mall would give SPH REIT management team invaluable management exposure and networking into the Australian market, I never expect that the next Australian retail acquisition to come so quickly in less than a year.
|Extract of Westfield Marion Shopping Centre Details|
SPH REIT still no fate to be with Seletar Mall
I can't help but feel a tinge of sadness as Seletar Mall once again escaped from the clutch of SPH REIT, notwithstanding the surprise acquisition of a good quality Australian freehold asset. But the good news is that Seletar Mall is still in the future pipeline of SPH REIT. So too is the Woodleigh shopping mall which is under construction which bodes well for the future growth of SPH REIT.
|The Seletar Mall|
SPH has been building up its Property division for a number of years to diversify away from its traditional media business and this strategy is bearing fruits. Besides the property development and retail REIT portions, another superb sub-segment is its student accommodation business which is widely viewed as extremely defensive with strong resilient earnings even in economic downturn. Unfortunately, to get a piece of student accommodation action, one would need to invest in SPH as this is not available on SPH REIT. Perhaps SPH may start another REIT in future that focuses on student accommodation.