Tag Archives: print

SPH – At its lowest for now?

When a spring is hammered very hard, the spring back tends to be very sharp. This is probably the best description for SPH this week.

In the last few days, most of the news or discussions related to this stock appeared to be bad, or at best, neutral. Being a by-stander watching from the sideline, it appeared to me that nobody seemed to have anything good to say about this stock. Indeed, it was hammered very hard for the first 3 days of the week hitting a low of $2.54 per share on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the last two days, however, it seemed to have rebounded quite strongly to close at $2.68 by Friday, though it is still lower than the last week’s close at $2.74. Perhaps, these were some opportunistic purchases made by contrarians. After all, it SPH has never experienced this low except during the global financial crisis in 2008/2009.

 

For the last 5 quarters or so, most of the news related to the stock were generally not positive. Pessimism over this stock grew in every release of quarterly results. Perhaps, the sell down this week was in anticipation of the poor results for the coming quarter as well. So if the quarterly result is not as bad as expected, then maybe we can expect a small price re-bound. (I say small because SPH’s economic moat is not strong at this moment for a significant turnaround) Of course, the other way also holds true. If the result is worse than expected, then perhaps we should expect a further sell down.

    

(This was the abstract taken from a Facebook post in April 2016 for past students. At the time of writing the Facebook post, things were still not as bad. So the expectation was that it probably should stabilize at around $3.70. News turned out to be very bad for the next 5 quarters. Yesterday, the share price closed at $2.68.)

Here is the dilemma. It has been a happy situation to have unloaded all my SPH stocks in anticipation that SPH would face hard times ahead. It has been too heavily dependent on the print business. Since then, I was on a stand-by mode, waiting to buy them back at a lower price. It should not just centres itself around the print business. It has to lay out a sustaining business proposal on the table before the share price can turn up convincingly. Now, with the bad news already significantly discounted in the share price, it may be the time to re-consider buying some back as ‘insurance’ in case it really made a turnaround or at least stabilized after more than a year of battering. Hopefully, it is at least a breather for now. It had lost one-third its value from an average price of about $4. For all we know, the share price always lead the actual company performance. So buying back may be a good idea if we believe that something magical can happen in the future. Let us see what happens in the next few weeks.

 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

 

 

Execution strategy: Sell & buy back

In the talk organized by InvestingNote a few weeks ago, we shared several guiding principles when we buy or sell our stocks. Ideally, when we buy into a stock we hope that the moment when we buy into it, the share price immediately rises and stays for a long time, better still, forever. This means that our stock has appreciated and provides us a good margin of safety. The other part of the return is the recurring income that comes in the form of dividends year after year. So basically, we enjoy both the capital appreciation and dividends. This is an ideal situation. It is akin to buying a bungalow that cost $50,000 in the 60s or 70s and the valuation is now at $25million. The recurring income comes in the form of rentals. This is known as the buy-and-hold-strategy, and was famously used by long-term investors like Warren Buffet and John Templeton.

There are, however, situations that are not viable to hold a stock any longer because the underlying fundamentals have eroded with no immediate solution in sight. A good example is the SPH. In the 90s and the start of the new millennium, SPH had been a good stock. It was a near-monopoly in the print business. Hence, it made sense to buy the stock at a reasonably good price and held it long term to take advantage of the dividends that were distributed year after year. But the inauguration of the internet changed the rules of the whole game. Customers now have a choice – either to continue to read the hard printed copy that comes one to two days late or to browse through the internet in search of immediate news. It is so powerful that many newspaper and magazine printers were pushed to the brink of bankruptcies. While we continue to like the stock, we probably have no choice but to change our tact to a sell-and-buy-back-later execution strategy.

By selling into strength and buying back later, it helps us lower of the average cost for the shares. Even if we decide not to buy back the stock any more, we are effectively enjoying a saving that would have otherwise eroded with time. Let me use an actual scenario of a person whom I know very, very, very well. He had 6,000 SPH shares mid-2016.

The share price was dropping very quickly by mid-2016. He was left with 6,000 shares at that time. Feeling that it no longer made sense to hold the shares any longer, he decided to let go of his holding over a period of three months. The proceeds after taking into account of the brokerage and other fees come to about $23,589.61. Hypothetically, if he were to buy back the same quantity of stock yesterday, the amount that he had to pay would be $17,949.73. Deducting further of the loss of dividends of $1,080 which he did not collect as he had sold the shares, he still can make a gain of $4,559.88. This is equivalent to a gain of at least 4 years of dividends without losing out the shareholding instead of losing out one year of dividends originally. In summary, we need to adapt the right buy/sell strategies for our stocks. Buy-and-hold strategy may not always work.

 

 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Technology destroyed some traditional businesses (1): SPH

By now, many would have noted that SPH share price has been on a decline from $4, slightly more than a year ago.  It has not been this low since the global financial crisis when it touched $2.32 on 12 March 2009, which coincided with the low of the Straits Times lndex (STI). Following the crisis, it had been oscillating at around $4 for a long, long time before the recent decline to its current price at around $3.25. In fact, since the share split of 1:5 in 2004, the share price has not really enjoyed any strong upside although investors had been lavished with generally good dividends in the past.

In fact, SPH is not the only victim of the technology onslaught. Newsweek, Washington Post, Financial Times, Reader’s Digest and many national newspapers suffered declining sales volume as well.  Technology, in particular the internet, had swept across the globe at such a huge pace that it wiped out many traditional news and printed media businesses. Readers are no longer happy to receive news 1-2 days after it happened, not even hours. We are now talking about minutes or even seconds. Financial market for one is very unforgiving as far as the speed of news is concerned. The news that appeared in print today was already a history that had already moved the market. Certainly, the financial market players are too impatient to wait for the print to reach them before they reacted. Look at US presidency election, the BREXIT, British election, the market had already reacted even before the news were casted in print. By the time the news appeared on the dailies, many snippets would have already splashed all over the internet. Just a simple search through a search engine, one would be able to pick up at least 10 pieces of news stories on the first page of the engine search.

Personally, I think that the management saw it coming at that time, and that was why they decided to sell several properties into SPH REIT in mid-2013. By so doing, it hoped that it can earn a ‘passive income’ as a sponsor and a major shareholder of this REIT. Unfortunately, the rental income is not sufficient to offset the decline in the print business. And this could continue to be so for a long time to come. To be straight to the point, the internet is not going to go away any time soon. In fact, it will definitely not go away unless it is displaced by another faster and more convenient transmission means. That said, it is a long-term threat unless SPH is able to side-step it by finding another growth business.

To be fair, I would think that the management has been doing their best to maintain shareholder’s value. The share price could have declined even more steeply had it not been for the high dividends that were distributed in the last few years. Unfortunately, this is an encroaching external threat that is difficult to defend against, unless they do not want to be in the business at all or to lessen the blow by finding another lucrative business. The final consequence, unfortunately, is an ever-declining share prices, a deep cut in future dividends or both.

 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy. Analyses of some individual stocks can be found in bpwlc.usefedora.com. Registration is free.

 

 

 

SPH: Does the merger between The New Paper and My Paper make sense?

The SPH’s FY2016 financial results came as no surprise. As expected, the media segment continued to disappoint and I do not expect to see improvements in the foreseeable future. In the restructuring effort, it appeared evident that there will be some lay-offs, and SPH confirmed that the plan to downsize about 10% of the workforce from the current workforce of 4,185 through attritions and retirements. That means about 418 will not replaced in the course over the next 2 years.

What appeared to be the bolder move is the plan to merge The New Paper (TNP) and My Paper (MP) and the merged newspaper will be provided free. According to The Straits Times and MP, the circulation for TNP and MP is 60,000 and 300,000 respectively. With the price of 70 cents per copy TNP and free for MP, this translates to a loss in daily sales of $42,000 or about $12.6 million annually. Can this loss in sales be covered by the cost savings through the lay-offs. Perhaps, although I personally believe it is insignificant. After all, perhaps only a portion of the 10% affected workforce is directly linked to the merger between the new newspaper products. By merging the two newspaper products, it may even reduce the revenue from the advertisers because advertisers need to advertise in the new combined newspaper instead of in two newspapers currently. The overall end results would be the readers are happy. However, it may not help boost the overall profitability of the company.

Perhaps, one may argue that the $12.6million in sales from TNP is insignificant compare to the overall sales revenue of $834 million and $902 million in 2016 and 2015 respectively, but still, unless the management had done their sums that the reduced workforce can more than off-set the loss in the sales.

Another possibility of the decision to merge the two newspapers is that the sales of TNP is dwindling so significantly that the management felt that the cost is eating too much into the profit attributable to TNP such that it is no longer viable to sell as a product. By merging the two newspapers, perhaps, the management hoped to increase the MP content/quality with higher circulation, thereby increasing the advertising revenue. However, this cannot be simply calculated given that changing reader taste to the internet. Given that the management is sacrificing the TNP sales in hope to increase the advertisement revenue, perhaps this also indirectly points to the fact that the revenue from advertisements is much higher than newspapers sales. In fact, the way it is, they are even willing to give away newspaper free to the advantage of the readers. Whatever it is, this is a business decision that the management decides to take after working out the sums. However, I believe these are ‘mickey-mouse’ changes to cause any significant overall results. What SPH needs is a game-changer product that may not even be related to media and printing business. Otherwise, it is quite difficult to offset the fast dwindling media business segment. In the meantime, I look forward to a thicker and hopefully, more packed contents, in the new merged MP.

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.