Sing Tao News Corp will turn its English-language publication Standard into a free newspaper on Monday as it attempts to reposition the title following the loss of key financial industry advertising. The publisher of the free Chinese-language newspapers Headline Daily and Express Post as well as the paid broadsheet Sing Tao Daily, forecasts the new Standard will break even on cash flow in 18 months if it faces no direct competitors in the market. The Standard will boost its daily print run to 120,000 copies from 50,000. The paper will be distributed from Monday to Saturday in business districts including Central, Admiralty, Tsim Sha Tsui and Quarry Bay as well as in airlines and hotels. The paper has suffered from declining advertising since the stock exchange in June abolished a rule requiring main-board companies to publish paid announcements. Market sources said the Standard had accounted for over 60 per cent of the paid announcement market. Nielsen Media figures show that the paper's advertising revenue dropped by 34 per cent in July over the previous month. 'It's an uncharted market,' Sing Tao chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok said of the move yesterday. 'We don't know how big the market is but we are forced to change.' Mr Ho said the company had been working on a contingency plan for the future of the Standard as it had foreseen the impact of the stock exchange's new rule. 'If we succeed in this market, it would also benefit our competitor (South China Morning Post) as more readers will be reading English newspapers,' he said. There are three free Chinese-language newspapers that distribute more than one million copies each day. Metro Daily first hit the market in 2002. Headline Daily and property agency Centaline Group's am 730 entered the market in July 2005. Free newspapers accounted for 16 per cent of total newspaper advertising revenue in the first seven months of this year, up from 10 per cent in 2006. Mr Ho declined to reveal details of the Standard's advertising revenue but he emphasised the move was to keep the paper in the market, rather than close it down. Sing Tao chief executive Lo Wing-hung said the new Standard would target 60 per cent editorial content and 40 per cent advertising. 'Our number of pages is flexible according to the advertising booking,' Mr Lo said.