Singapore Press Holdings Limited

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Singapore Press Holdings Limited

1000 Toa Payoh N, News Centre
Singapore, 318994
Telephone: (+65) 6319 6319
Fax: (+65) 6319 8282
Web site:

Public Company
Incorporated: 1845 as The Straits Times Press
Employees: 3,563
Sales: SGD 1.02 billion ($643.6 million) (2006)
Stock Exchanges: Singapore
Ticker Symbol: SPRM
NAIC: 511110 Newspaper Publishers; 511120 Periodical Publishers

Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPH) is Singapore's dominant publisher of newspapers and magazines. The company's newspaper holdings include the Straits Times, Singapore's oldest and largest English-language newspaper, as well as the country's two largest Chinese language dailies, Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao, and the leading Malay language papers, Berita Harian and Berita Minggu, as well as the Tamil-language daily Tami Murasu.

Other newspaper titles include the Business Times, afternoon tabloid the New Paper, and the Chinese-language free newspaper my paper. In total the company publishes 14 newspapers, with a paid circulation of more than one million subscribers and a readership of more than two million. The company estimates that more than 80 percent of the total Singapore population over the age of 15 reads one of its newspapers. SPH also publishes many of the leading magazine titles in the Singapore market, including its flagship Her World, which boasts a circulation of 200,000 each month. Other company titles include Citta Bella and Icon, both in Chinese, Female, First!, Young Parents, The Peak, NuYou, and a number of licensed titles, such as Seventeen, Maxim, and Men's Health. Altogether the company's 80 magazine titles sell some 800,000 copies per month. Since the Singapore government ended the company's newspaper monopoly in 2000, SPH has been expanding into other media. The company's operations include SPH Internet Business, a subsidiary overseeing the company's interactive and Internet-based operations, including, Straits Times Interactive, Business Times Online, and SPH is also Singapore's leader in the outdoor advertising market, through subsidiaries SPH MediaBoxOffice and TOM Outdoor Media Group. The latter is highly active in the mainland China market, with operations in more than 60 cities. SPH has also added operations in Thailand, through the purchase of a 49 percent stake in Traffic Corner Publishing in 2005. SPH also holds interests in two radio stations, through a joint venture with NTUC Media. A public company, SPH nonetheless remains under tight control of the Singapore government and subject to the company's strict censorship regulations. In 2006, SPH posted revenues of more than SGD 1.02 billion ($643 million).


Singapore Press Holdings originated in Singapore as a small newspaper founded in 1845 by Catchick Moses, an Armenian immigrant to the young British possession. Moses bought a press and hired Robert Carr Woods to edit and publish the eight-page weekly newspaper, called the Straits Times and Singapore Journal of Commerce. By the end of the year, the Straits Times had raised its circulation, from an initial run of 200 copies, through the addition of a second publication, called the Overland Journal, produced for a readership outside of Singapore. Carr Woods bought the company from Moses the following year.

By 1858, Singapore's English-speaking population had grown sufficiently for Woods to convert the newspaper into a daily. At that time, Woods relaunched the newspaper as an afternoon edition, changing its name to the Daily Times. Woods sold the company two years later, and by 1861 The Straits Times Press, as the company was called, had been taken over by a retired sailor, John Cameron. Under Cameron, the newspaper boosted its coverage of world events by becoming a subscriber to the Reuters news service in 1870. Cameron remained owner/editor of the newspaper until his death in 1881; two years later, under Cameron's widow, the newspaper changed its name back to the Straits Times. Her death, in 1900, led to the newspaper's acquisition by a partnership led by her son-in-law. At that time, Straits Times Press was incorporated as a private limited company.

Straits Times Press, which had originally been located on what became known as Raffles Place (after the colony's founder), built a new, permanent headquarters on the growing city's Cecil Street in 1903. Two years later, the company expanded its publication list with the launch of the Straits Times Annual. However, the group's focus remained on its daily newspaper, which saw its circulation top 5,000 by the beginning of World War I.

The Straits Times expanded its format in 1928, to 28 pages, adding photographs for the first time. The company also set up an office in London at this time, providing editorial and advertising support. Two years later, The Straits Times Press added an office in what later became Malaysia, serving the growing English-speaking population in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The increased readership, and the fast-growing population in Singapore, encouraged the company to launch a new Sunday edition of its newspaper, the Sunday Times, in 1931, with an initial circulation of 10,000. As part of its expansion, the company invested in its first rotary printing press that year.

The added printing capacity was soon put to good use, as Straits Times Press launched its first tabloid newspaper, the Singapore Daily News, in 1931. By 1933, that newspaper was merged into a rival tabloid, the Free Press, which was then taken over by the Straits Times. The company continued to look for new expansion opportunities, and in 1936 acquired two Malaysia-based newspapers, the Penang Gazette and the Times of Malaya. The Japanese invasion of Singapore put an end to The Straits Times Press's independence. The company's printing facilities were taken over by the Japanese occupation forces, which launched its own newspaper, the Shonan Times (later renamed as the Synonan Shimbum ) under direction of the Japanese Propaganda Department.


The Straits Times reappeared shortly after the liberation of Singapore and the return of the British in September 1945. By the end of that month, the company had resumed publication of the Sunday Times as well. At the same time, the Allied command gave the Straits Times responsibility for printing several newspapers for troops in the region, including the English-language SEAC, the Dutch-language Oranje, the Urdu (Indian) daily Jawan, and even a weekly newspaper for Japanese prisoners of war. By 1946, however, the Straits Times switched its printing capacity back to its own newspapers, including the relaunch of the Free Press. In that year also, Singapore became a separate colony reporting directly to the British crown, setting the stage for the country's independence, and the emergence of Singapore Press Holdings.


Our mission is: To inform, educate and entertain.

The Straits Times Press went public on the Singapore Stock Exchange in 1950. The listing enabled the company to expand its holdings, notably with the purchase of the Malay Mail, one of the oldest newspapers in Kuala Lumpur. That acquisition permitted the company to launch a new edition of the Straits Times specifically for the Malaysia market in 1956. The following year, the company supported the new edition with the acquisition of a printing company, the Caxton Press, in Malaysia. By then, the company had also added a new title, Berita Harian, for the Malay population in Singapore.

Singapore's independence in 1959 and the taking of power by the People's Action Party (PAP) signaled a new era for the company. In that year, The Straits Times Press was broken up, with its Malaysian holdings transferred to a new, and separate company, Malay Mail Press Company Ltd. Malay Mail continued to print its own Malaysian edition of the Straits Times, and later changed its name to Straits Times Press (Malaya) Ltd.

Into the 1960s, The Straits Times Press began filling in the gap caused by the loss of its Malaysian holdings. In 1960, the company launched a new Sunday edition of Berita Harian. In that year, also, Straits Times added magazine publishing, launching its highly popular Her World magazine. By 1967, the company, which traditionally had focused on the English-language market, launched its first Chinese-language publication, the afternoon title Shin Min Daily. In this way, the company covered all four of the official Singapore languages.

As the PAP worked on transforming Singapore from a trade-based economy dependent on its immediate neighbors into one of southeast Asia's most highly developed countries, it also began exerting its control over the country's media. Tensions between the government and the still independent newspapers came to a head in the early 1970s, and in 1974, the government passed the Newspaper and Printing Press Act. The new legislation allowed the government to take effective control of all of the country's printing and publishing industries by establishing new ownership rules limiting individual stakes to no more than 3 percent in a company. This rule effectively put an end to the traditional family ownership of much of the state's newspapers. The government also established a two-tier share system, under which shareholders with so-called management stakes, appointed only by the government, were given voting rights equivalent to 200 times those of ordinary shares. Finally, the government also put into place a permit system, requiring all groups and individuals involved in the publishing industry to apply for licenses from the government.


Despite the restrictions, Straits Times Press continued to add new titles through the 1970s. In 1976, the company added the Business Times, which was to remain the country's only business newspaper. The company also expanded its magazine selection, launching Female, a fashion and beauty format, in 1974, and the NuYou, the company's first Chinese-language magazine. Despite the company's steadily increasing magazine portfolio, newspapers remained the core of the company's business, and the Straits Times its clear flagship, and chief revenue generator. In this, the company was aided by an important feature of the Singapore advertising sector, in that newspaper advertising remained by far the dominant market for advertising in Singapore into the next century.


Eight-page weekly Straits Times and Singapore Journal of Commerce debuts in Singapore.
Straits Times is converted to a daily.
Straits Times Press is incorporated as a private liability company.
Company launches Sunday Times.
Japanese occupation forces take over Straits Times, which is renamed the Shonan Times for the duration of the war.
Straits Times is relaunched.
Straits Times Press goes public with listing on Singapore Exchange.
With Singapore's independence, Straits Times Press spins off Malaysian holdings into a new, separate company.
Passage of Newspaper and Printing Press Act gives Singapore government control over publishing and printing industries.
Business Times debuts.
Straits Times Press is merged with Times Publishing Berhad and Singapore News & Publications, forming the government-controlled publishing monopoly Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).
Government liberalizes publishing and broadcasting sectors and SPH launches two television stations.
SPH agrees to merge its television stations in new company, MediaCorp TV Holdings.
SPH acquires 49 percent of Traffic Corner Holdings in Thailand.
SPH launches new free Chinese-language daily titled my paper.

The PAP, even as it shifted its economic model from a socialist to free-market economy, continued to tighten its control of the country's media. In 1983, the government pushed through a merger of The Straits Times with Times Publishing Berhad and Singapore News & Publications, adding, among other titles, the country's two largest Chinese-language newspapers, Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh. The resulting company, which held a monopoly on newspaper publishing in the country, was then named Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). Soon after the merger, Nanyang Siang Pau and the Sin Chew Jit Poh themselves were merged together into the morning daily Lianhe Zaobao (United Morning News) and the afternoon daily Lianhe Wambao (United Evening News).

Despite its control by the Singapore government, SPH maintained a commitment to developing new titles for its Singapore readership. In 1988, the company launched the afternoon tabloid the New Paper, which, as the only afternoon tabloid on the market, quickly built up the country's second largest English-language circulation. This was followed by a youth oriented Chinese-language tabloid, Friday Weekly, launched in 1991. SPH also developed a number of new magazine formats, including Young Parents in 1986, the car enthusiast Torque in 1990, the Chinese-language women's magazine Citta Bella in 1993, and Her World Bride in 1998, among others.

The Singapore government's decision to encourage the development of the Internet in Singapore in the early 1990s provided SPH with a new market for growth. The company began rolling out its own interactive media content, including online editions of the Straits Times, Business Times, and Lianhe Zaobao, as well as SPH also entered the market for mobile telephones, with the launch of the MobileOne service in 1997.

At the start of the 2000s, the PAP ended SPH's publishing monopoly, in part in order to allow the government controlled television entity, Media Corporation of Singapore (MCS), to enter the publishing market with the launch of a free daily newspaper. In exchange, SPH was granted the right to launch two television broadcasting stations. The company founded a new subsidiary, MediaWorks, in 2000, and by 2001 had launched the English-language channel TV Works (or Channel i) and the Chinese-language channel Channel U. The company also acquired interests in two radio stations. At the same time, SPH launched two free daily newspapers, Streets and the oddly named Project Eyeball, in order to counter MCS's Today newspaper.

The effort to expand beyond their traditional markets proved too much for both companies, however. With losses in SPH's television networks mounting, the company threw in the towel in 1994. In that year, the company agreed to merge its broadcast operations into those of MCS, forming a new company, MediaCorp TV Holdings. SPH's stake in the new company stood at 20 percent. As part of the agreement, MCS agreed to turn over a 40 percent stake in its free daily, Today, to SPH. That paper was then merged into SPH's Streets, retaining the Today name, in 2005.

Refocused on its publishing operations, SPH continued to seek new areas for expansion. The company, which had entered the mainland China market with a growing outdoor advertising subsidiary, TOM Outdoor Media Group, looked for further opportunities in the region. In 2005, the company reached an agreement to acquire a 49 percent stake in Traffic Corner Holdings, a major publisher in Thailand with interests in television and radio broadcasting as well. SPH also continued to develop new newspaper and magazine titles. In 2003, the company acquired the license to launch a Singapore edition of Men's Health. The company added a new in-house title, Icon Singapore, in 2005. By June 2006, SPH had added the country's first free Chinese-language daily, my paper. With a history reaching back more than 150 years, SPH looked forward to a continued future as Singapore's publishing heavyweight.

M. L. Cohen


Focus Publishing Ltd.; Lianhe Publishing Pte Ltd.; New Beginnings Business Company Limited (China); Sin Chew Jit Poh Holding (Singapore) Limited; Singapore News Limited; SPH AsiaOne Ltd.; SPH Magazines Pte Ltd.; SPH MultiMedia Private Limited; The Straits Times Press (1975) Limited; TOM Outdoor Media Group; Ltd.


Norske Skog Panasia Company Private Ltd.; Vantage Corporation Ltd.; Times Publishing Ltd.; International Press Softcom Ltd.; KHL Printing Company Private Ltd.; Times Printers Private Ltd.; Communication Resources Private Ltd.; IDG Communication Private Ltd.; Newscom Private Ltd.


"A Media Scuffle to the Death," Asia Week, January 8, 2001.

"Singapore Company to Launch Free Chinese-Language Morning Paper," BBC Monitoring International Reports, March 9, 2006.

"Singapore Exchange to Relaunch Straits Times Index," Xinhua News Agency, November 30, 2006.

"Singapore's Media Scene Shrinks with Merger," Asia Image, October 2004, p. 8.

"SPH in Malaysian Magazine Tie-up," Bernama the Malaysian National News Agency, November 3, 2004.

"SPH Magazine Buys 49 Per Cent in Traffic Corner Publishing," Thai Press Reports, January 21, 2005.

"SPH Takes AsiaOne Private," Business Times, October 4, 2001.

Stein, Janine, "Two Becomes One," Television Asia, October 2004, p. 3.