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Hays reports third quarter gross profit growth in subdued UK jobs market

Hays said net fees in the UK and Ireland fell 2% in third quarter as employers exercised caution amid Brexit uncertainty
Hays remains confident of hitting its five-year target to broadly double profits by 2022

Recruitment company Hays plc (LON:HAS) achieved a 10% increase in like-for-like gross profit in the third quarter despite subdued conditions in the UK job market.

The group said net fees, a measure of gross profit, in the UK and Ireland fell by 2% on a like-for-like basis, mainly due to declines in permanent recruitment and in the education, accountancy and finance sectors.

READ: Hays falls as subdued UK market, weak cash generation offsets rise in first half profit

UK employers have been more cautious about hiring staff as the outcome of Brexit negotiations and its impact on the economy remain unclear. 

On Wednesday, sector peer PageGroup PLC (LON:PAGE) said gross profit in the UK fell 7.1% in the first quarter due to macroeconomic uncertainty.

The UK and Ireland division accounted for 24% of total net fees for Hays.

Growth driven by Germany 

Germany, which represents 27% of total net fees, was the key driver of growth in the third quarter, offsetting the weak performance in the UK. Like-for-like net fees in the European nation rose 16%.

Like-for-like net fees in Australia and New Zealand climbed 12% while the rest of the world segment posted a 15% rise.

Hays said an increase in the value of the pound against the Australian dollar, Asian currencies and the US dollar had a negative impact on net fees on a reported basis but this was partially offset by a modestly stronger euro. Reported net fees rose 9%.

The temporary recruitment business delivered a 9% increase in net fees in the quarter, accounting for 58% of the total. The permanent recruitment arm, which represented the rest of the total, saw net fees gain 11%.

Hays confident of reaching targets

"Looking ahead, conditions remain positive in the vast majority of our markets," said chief executive Alistair Cox.

"With the largest and most balanced global platform in our industry, combined with our focus on investments to drive profitable, cash-generative growth, we are very well-positioned to capitalise on the many opportunities we currently see in our markets.

"We continue to look to the future, including our five-year plan to broadly double profits by 2022, with confidence."

The group had net cash of £5mln at the end of March, compared to £35mln in December, after paying the final $18.5mln for the acquisition of the remaining 20% stake in US specialist IT staffer Veredus in January. 

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