Utusan lives on, announces price hike

Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! will cost 50 sen more. (Facebook pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Media group Utusan Melayu Bhd today announced that its two flagship publications, Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, will continue to be published. However, their cover prices will go up.

Quashing speculation that the papers will cease publication because of financial woes, the company’s executive chairman, Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, said Utusan Malaysia will be sold at RM2 a copy, up from RM1.50, while Kosmo! will also see a hike of 50 sen, to RM1.50.

Abd Aziz said if Malaysians wanted to help rescue the company, they could do so by buying the papers.

“If Malays really want to help ensure the daily (Utusan Malaysia), which has been around for 80 years, survive, then buy the paper and continue advertising in it.”

Asked about unpaid salaries for its employees, Abd Aziz said they had yet to set a time-frame to resolve the problem.

“I told the staff that there are no guarantees. If we can’t afford (to pay salaries), we will have to close shop.

“Currently, there are no newspaper companies that are hiring,” he said, adding that its decision to raise the prices of its dailies was part of an initiative to help pay staff salaries.

This afternoon, the company announced that it was giving each employee a RM2,000 advance to ease their financial burden.

The company, which has been publishing Utusan Malaysia for eight decades, has accumulated losses of RM261.61 million as of June 30.

During its heyday in the 1990s, the paper’s circulation peaked at 350,000 copies a day and it was one of the largest selling newspapers in the country. However, sales crashed after 2004, slipping to 250,000, and further down to 144,438 copies in the first half of 2016.

Utusan Melayu Bhd has been in the red since 2012. In August last year, the company triggered the PN17 criteria after defaulting on its principal and profit payments to Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd and Maybank Islamic Bhd totalling RM1.18 million.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the company announced that trading in its shares would be suspended with effect on Aug 28, and its shares delisted on Aug 30.

Earlier today, its shares fell 27.27%, dropping 3 sen to 8 sen for a market capitalisation of RM8.86 million at 9.15am. The group also turned in a seventh consecutive quarterly net loss at RM3.89 million for the three-month period ending June 30.