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SMT’s acquisition of Tech in Asia aligned with intent of government funding, says Minister Teo

Minister Josephine Teo said SMT’s acquisition of Tech in Asia supports its transformation and is aligned with the intent of government’s S$180 million annual funding.

Addressing WP MP Louis Chua’s PQ, she downplayed concerns regarding agglomeration risks in the local media sector.

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SINGAPORE: Josephine Teo, Minister for Communications and Information, confirmed that earlier this year, the Singapore Media Trust (SMT) had informed the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) about its intentions to acquire Tech in Asia (TIA).

While the specific cost of acquiring Tech in Asia remains undisclosed due to commercial considerations, Minister Teo asserted that the takeover by SMT aligns with the entity’s overarching mission, which includes its transformation.

TIA is a technology media company dedicated to fostering and nurturing Asia’s tech and startup community, and SMT planned to finance this acquisition using its existing resources.

“As a commercial entity, SMT will have to undertake independent and sound decisions to carry out its mission, including how best to bring about its transformation,” said Minister Teo in a written answer to a Parliamentary question filed by Mr Louis Chua, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament for Sengkang GRC on Wednesday (22 Nov).

She emphasized the government’s non-involvement in such commercial decisions, acknowledging that the acquisition “supports SMT’s transformation and is aligned with the intent of Government funding.”

“We also note that SMT and TIA will not be disclosing the financial terms of this transaction, in view of market sensitivities.”

WP MP Louis Chua raises concern over agglomeration risks within the local media industry

Mr Chua’s queries included whether the Government imposes any restrictions on the utilization of the S$180 million annual funding allocated to SPH Media Trust (SMT), particularly concerning transactions involving Mergers and Acquisitions.

Additionally, he asked if the Government has access to information regarding the price paid by SMT for its acquisition of the independent technology media company, Tech In Asia.

Mr Chua also inquired about the measures in place to mitigate agglomeration risks within the local media industry.

In response, Minister Teo said funding for SPH Media Trust (SMT) is earmarked for three key focus areas – namely, Technology Development, Talent Development, and the Preservation of Vernacular Media.

“To ensure prudent use of public funds, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) has been closely monitoring SMT’s performance and its utilisation of funding in support of these areas.”

While Mr Chua raised concern over agglomeration risks in the local media industry, Minister Teo dismissed the notion, claiming that people “should take a broader and more updated view of the media landscape.”

“With the advent of social and digital media, the media industry has seen increasing fragmentation and intense competition both globally and locally, with diverse forms of content offered across a wide range of online and offline platforms, “she said.

Nonetheless, as with other industries, Minister Teo affirmed that the Government will continue to protect consumers and prevent anti-competitive practices, and will take measures to promote fair and efficient market conduct where necessary.

SPH Media announces acquisition of technology media company Tech in Asia on 1 Nov

On 1 November, SPH Media revealed its decision to acquire TIA.

SPH media in a press release said it is set to enhance the offerings of the group, particularly augmenting the capabilities of The Business Times.

SPH Media, which is wholly owned by SMT and publishes titles such as The Straits Times and The Business Times, also confirmed on Nov 1 that no layoffs were expected following the merger.

“The synergies from this proposed acquisition will deepen the value BT brings to businesses and readers in the region, and accelerate its goal of becoming a regional player for business and tech news, and events,” SPH Media said.

It added: “The acquisition will infuse new digital media talent and capabilities into BT, in areas of journalism, tech, business insights, product, events and marketing.

A spokesperson for the group said: “We are not disclosing the financial terms of the transaction. The acquisition is funded from SPH Media’s existing resources. We expect that the combination of BT and TIA will generate new revenue opportunities for the wider group.”

In light of the acquisition, a post-merger integration process has been mapped out, with an estimated timeline of 12 to 18 months.

In 2021, Singapore Media Trust (SMT) underwent a restructuring process, transitioning from Singapore Press Holdings to establish itself as a not-for-profit entity.

Subsequently, it was slated to receive S$900 million in public funds spread over a five-year period. The announcement regarding this funding was made in February 2022.

On the other hand, TIA, established in 2010, is recognized as one of the pioneers of business tech media in the region, with a digital news publication focusing on startup and venture capital news for a primarily Southeast Asian, Indian, and North American user base.

The publication boasts a team of 90 employees situated across Singapore, Indonesia, and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Additionally, it maintains a regional events network and caters to corporate customers across multiple markets.

The acquisition remains subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to conclude by the end of 2023.

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