Troubled publisher Sing Tao Holdings has moved decisively into the red with a $115.99 million net loss for the year to March compared with a $26.93 million net profit a year ago. The result is almost entirely attributable to a $154 million exceptional loss stemming from Sing Tao's decision to write-down its investment in associate Culturecom Holdings. Culturecom - which publishes Chinese-language newspaper Tin Tin Daily News - saw its net losses widen to $75.62 million from $15.54 million. Analysts were surprised by the decision to write off Culturecom, which they believed was linked to the proposed sale of part of Sing Tao's 43 per cent stake in Culturecom to Culturecom chairman Tang Lap-yan. They said the poor results were heralded in June when property developer Mingly Corp - controlled by pro-Beijing businessman Cha Chi-ming - pulled out of buying a key stake in Sing Tao from controlling shareholder Sally Aw Sian. Mingly cited unsatisfactory results of its due diligence probe into Sing Tao's profit-and-loss account and operations as the reason for its withdrawal. Sing Tao - owner of Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily and English-language daily Hong Kong Standard - saw operating profit before exceptional items jump 142 per cent to $163.27 million. Salomon Smith Barney analyst Kaushik Shridharani said the growth was partly attributable to the sale of Sing Tao's property development project in Canada. Sources at Sing Tao said the Hong Kong Standard had become profitable in the year to March having incurred an estimated $10 million operating loss the previous year. However, Mr Shridharani said the newspaper had probably slipped back into a loss since April due to the shrinking advertising market. 'There are also concerns the Hong Kong Standard may face a liability over allegedly fraudulently inflating its circulation figures. This may bring a provision to the company,' he said. With Hong Kong falling into a recession, Mr Shridharani expected Sing Tao to post a drop of at least 50 per cent in operating profit in the year to March next year. Culturecom, which also publishes comic books, saw operating loss before a $24.3 million exceptional rise 67.41 per cent to $57.81 million. The exceptional loss was a provision for an anticipated loss on the disposal of its safe and furniture business. Losses per share at Sing Tao stood at 27.4 cents against earnings of 6.3 cents per share while Culturecom's losses per share soared to 6.95 cents from 1.43 cents. Sing Tao directors proposed no final dividend compared with four cents previously while Culturecom directors did not recommend any final dividend as in the previous year. Shares closed at 85 cents yesterday.