200 jobs go as newspaper falls victim to downturn

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 March, 1998, 12:00am

The mass-market Express News folded yesterday in a move management said was forced by the region's financial turmoil.

'The future is unclear. Our advertising revenues were undermined,' a front-page announcement said.

'Under the circumstances, the newspaper decided to stop publication after today.' More than 200 staff lost their jobs. The paper's executives could not be reached for comment, but a production employee who showed up for work in the morning expressed sadness. 'It's been rumoured for a long time. We knew it was coming, just not today,' he said.

Hong Kong Journalists' Association chairman Carol Lai Pui-yee said the closure meant there would be one less newspaper to monitor the Government and give the public a voice.

In January, the paper sacked 70 staff in a cost-cutting exercise by parent company South China Strategic.

In the same month, its sister publication, Surprise Weekly, folded.

The paper maintained its cover price at $5 despite a price cut by the Oriental Daily News to $3.

South China Strategic attributed $45 million of a total $56.5 million loss in 1996 to the two publications.

Express News was first shut in December 1995 during a price war that led to the closure of eight other papers. It re-emerged nine months later. Circulation never went above 50,000 despite a temporary price cut to $2 in January last year.

CLOSING TIMES Surprise Weekly, 'info-tainment' magazine, January 27 TV Week, entertainment weekly, August 25 last year New Evening Post, pro-Beijing evening daily, July 26 last year Sing Tao Evening, independent evening daily, December 18, 1996 Eastern Express, short-lived English daily, June 30, 1996