Professional recruitment specialists Robert Walters PLC (LON:RWA) has made a good start to 2017, with a record quarter for the group seeing overall net fee income increase by 20% year-on-year at constant currency driven by international growth, especially in North America.
In a trading update for the first-quarter ended March 31, the firm said its net fee income (gross profit) was £78.3mln, up 33% at actual rates from the £59.0mln reported at the same stage in 2016.
The best performing area was its Other International business – comprising North America, Brazil, the Middle East and South Africa - which saw net fee income increase by 47%, albeit to only £4.7mln at constant currency (74% actual), with the strongest growth across North America.
Net fee income in the Asia Pacific, its biggest contributor, was up by 10% (29% actual) to £31.7mln as Japan continued to perform well and Hong Kong returned to growth, although mainland China continued to be challenging.
The group also saw double-digit net fee income growth in Australia and a continued strong performance in New Zealand.
In Europe, Robert Walters net fee income rose by 25% (40% actual) to £18mln, with excellent performances across the region and all markets growing net fee income.
UK financial services upturn …
Even in the UK, despite Brexit fears, the group’s net fee income increased by 27% to £23.9mln helped by a notable upturn in financial services recruitment activity in London plus good performances in legal recruitment and the UK regions.
The group said its net cash as at 31 March 2017 was £13.3mln, down from £19.2m a year earlier.
Robert Walters, the firm’s chief executive, said: "It's been a positive start to the year”.
He added: “We remain confident about the Group's prospects for the full year."
In early trading, Robert Walters shares were up 3%, or 13.5p at 445.0p.
The update comes just a month after Robert Walters reported its 2016 results which showed pretax profits increased by 26% to £28.1mln, up from £22.4mln in 2015, boosted by the weaker pound following June's Brexit vote.
Revenues rose by 23% to £998.8mln, up from £812.7mln in 2015, as it generated 69% of its net fee income outside of the UK.
The firm raised its final dividend by 21% to 6.20p per share, up from 5.13p in 2015, giving a total payout for 2016 of 8.5p, up from 7.08p a year earlier.
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