South China Morning Post (Holdings), publisher of the territory's biggest-selling English-language newspaper, says net profit for the year to June jumped 20 per cent. The $695.8 million profit was boosted by a one-time gain of $180.9 million from the sale of its old headquarters building in Quarry Bay. The company, which also publishes books and magazines, yesterday announced a rise in earnings per share to 44.9 cents from 38.67 cents in the previous year. Excluding the exceptional item, earnings were 33.22 cents. Turnover, which rose 14 per cent to $1.44 billion, was expanded by the inclusion of TVE (Holdings) and its subsidiaries, which were acquired for $1.15 billion in April. Analysts said the company's performance - even allowing for the exceptional item - had exceeded expectations. The company's share ended the day's trading up 10 cents at $5.40. Directors have recommended an unchanged final dividend of 13 cents a share, keeping the payout for the year at 30 cents a share. Chairman Robert Kuok said: 'We expect an improvement in the Hong Kong economy in the coming year largely due to positive signs in the retail and property market, a lower unemployment figure and an anticipated increase of visitors to Hong Kong. 'In company terms, we see a lowering of newsprint costs and improved results from our new subsidiary, TVE. These factors, together with the return of Hong Kong to China in June 1997, should provide us with both a challenging and a rewarding year ahead.' Mr Kuok said the main event in the newspaper industry had been the price war triggered in the Chinese-language market after the launch of Apple Daily. 'The picture today suggests a shift in Chinese-language newspaper reading habits which could have wide ramifications in the pattern of newspaper readership in future,' he said. 'However, the English-language market continues to be dominated by the South China Morning Post.' Higher costs and the squeeze on profits from the circulation war between Chinese-language newspapers hit the final results of other public media companies. Oriental Press Group's profits dived 93.8 per cent to $25.1 million and Sing Tao Holdings' results dropped to a loss of $146.4 million from a profit of $286.2 million in the previous year.