Standard Group's turnaround strategy now begins to bear fruit

BUSINESS |

(From left) PWC auditor Brian Ngunjiri, SG Secretary Millicent Ng'etich, Group CEO Orlando Lyomu, Vice-Chair Dr. Julius Kipngetich, and CFO Joseph Kiruri during virtual AGM at the Standard Group offices in Nairobi on June 22, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The Standard Group Plc’s medium-term strategy dubbed Project Eagle has started bearing fruit, with the company’s top leadership eyeing a range of new products designed to excite the market.

In a virtual annual general meeting (AGM) held yesterday, shareholders were told that the project is aimed at making The Standard Group an innovative media house, with “digital-first approach” that would define the firm’s next phase of growth.

“Although it is a seemingly difficult future, it is one we can surmount,” said Standard Group Chief Executive Officer Orlando Lyomu

“The Standard Group is already reaping from its investments in a converged newsroom which will define the next growth phase.”

SG Secretary Millicent Ng'etich and Group CEO Orlando Lyomu during virtual AGM at the Standard Group offices in Nairobi on June 22, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Despite a tumultuous business environment that depressed revenues in the media industry, Mr Lyomu said the media conglomerate was able to defy the odds to post an improved performance last year compared to 2019. The Group was able to reduce its losses through a combination of revenue-enhancing and cost-cutting measures.

The company is betting on strategic partnerships to advance growth, even as it engineers social change.

Started in 2017, Project Eagle has seen the group unveil several projects across the traditional and digital media platforms, including the revamp of existing products.

During this period, the Group has launched three radio stations and digital-first products.

“We believe that these new products will be able to give an upsurge in business within the next three years,” said Lyomu.

PWC auditor Brian Ngunjiri during virtual AGM at the Standard Group offices in Nairobi on June 22, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

This year, the Group unveiled a modern converged newsroom which the CEO said would see journalists and editors seamlessly connect on various digital platforms.

The Standard website and newspapers were also given an extreme make-over in what was aimed at making them user-friendly. Also present at the AGM was the Group Chairman Robin Sewell and his deputy Julius Kipng’etich, Company Secretary Millicent Ngetich and Chief Finance Officer Joseph Kiruri.

Besides pushing for more revenues, the Group has also moved to streamline its operations, cutting its costs for the year ending December 2020 by 30 per cent.

The CEO said the company’s revenues have been stable for the last three years, save for 2019 when they were jolted by regulatory changes that impacted betting and alcohol adverts. The Standard Group, together with other media houses, also helped the government in disseminating information on safety and Covid-19 protocols by offering free advertising space.

Despite a difficult operating environment that saw advertisers delay payments even as others cut their marketing budgets, the group was able to record an improved performance compared to the previous year.

Such delays saw the company set aside a record Sh1.2 billion as provision for possible loss. This year, the Group unveiled a new converged newsroom that is aimed at shaping the next growth trajectory.

Standard Group vice-chair Dr. Julius Kipngetich during virtual AGM at the Standard Group offices in Nairobi on June 22, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

However, the CEO noted the critical role that legacy media continues to play, as a big chunk of the revenues still come from broadcast and print media. With businesses going through a rough patch, media industry advertisement dropped by Sh3.6 billion in the period under review, said Lyomu.

The stringent measures put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 also depressed the Group’s revenues. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, with reduction in advertising revenues improving from a high of 70 per cent at the peak of the pandemic, to just 35 per cent at the moment.

The CEO observed that with a revamped newsroom and empowered staff, consumers of the group’s products should expect more innovative news coverage. 

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