From left: PWC External Auditor Richard Njoroge, SG Group Company Secretary Millicent Ngetich, Group CEO Orlando Lyomu, Board Vice-Chairman Dr Julius Kipngetich and Group Chief Finance Director Joseph Kiruri during the company's 104th AGM. [Samson Wire, Standard]
From left: PWC External Auditor Richard Njoroge, SG Group Company Secretary Millicent Ngetich, Group CEO Orlando Lyomu, Board Vice-Chairman Dr Julius Kipngetich and Group Chief Finance Director Joseph Kiruri during the company's 104th AGM. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Standard Group has confirmed to staff members its plan to undertake far-reaching lay-offs, as the struggling media giant looks to stay afloat. As Business Today reported in November, staff at Standard Group including senior journalists have not been paid for at least two months, indicating the company’s poor fiscal health. The company which operates brands including KTN News, Radio Maisha and The Standard newspaper even began requesting demoralized journalists to work from home.

Addressing staff members at a meeting on Wednesday, December 7, CEO Orlando Lyomu announced that the company was left with no choice but to lay off staff. Using a sailors’ analogy, he stated: “We have done everything we can. Unfortunately, with the state of play, if we don’t take action, this ship will sink.”

“During storms, the captains ask for all excesses to be thrówn overbóard to ensure the vessel can continue its voyage…” he continued.

Standard Group had previously announced plans for mass sackings on September 30, but implementation of the move stalled. Sources who spoke to BT linked this to cashflow woes at the company, highlighting the cost of sending home around 200 employees.

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At the time, Lyomu stated that the sackings were necessitated by their strategy to adapt to the fast-changing media space. He also pointed to “disruption of our business in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the pandémic” which, he said, continues to negatively impact revenues. Lyomu further noted that the company was restructuring its business model to adopt a leaner, more efficient structure.

Journalists, who form the bulk of the NSE-listed company’s payroll, will be hit hard.

Standard Group cut its loss before tax to Ksh22 million for year ended 31st December 2021 compared to a loss before tax of Ksh434.4 million over a similar period in 2020, an improvement of 95%. After tax, the loss stood at Ksh73.1 million, compared to a net loss of Ksh301.6 million in Covid-ravaged 2020.

Loans continue to weigh heavily on its balance sheet, and questions remain on the profitability of its expansion with several new TV and radio stations launched by the company in the past few years.

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